The 2015 Monroe County budget is a done deal.
Last night, the County Legislature passed County Executive Maggie Brooks' $1.2 billion plan as-is, without so much as a technical amendment. The Republican majority defeated the few amendments proposed by Democrats, which included efforts to restore child day care funds and to halt plans for outsourcing foster care visitation supervisors. Democrats voted against the budget.
The budget keeps the property tax rate at $8.99 per $1,000 assessed value. But Democratic Legislator Paul Haney argued that many county taxpayers will still see larger bills because of assessment increases and increases in some service charges.
Child day care subsidies were the big issue in this year's budget, though the debate wasn't as intense as it has been in past years. In 2015, the county will provide $4.2 million towards the subsidies, a decrease from the $4.6 million it provided under the 2014 budget. Brooks has said that, over the years, the county has stepped up to the plate and provided significant funding for the subsidies, but the state needs to provide more.
As they spoke last night, several Democratic legislators said the cut was misguided. The subsidies help working parents move toward financial independence and help ensure that more children get quality day care, they said. And the county is missing a chance to lead, to show state officials how important the subsidies are to the Community of Monroe.
"It screams that Monroe County's priorities are way off," said Democratic Legislator Joe Morelle Jr.
But Republican Majority Leader Steve Tucciarello defended the budget. He said any suggestion that child care subsidies are being cut on the whole is misleading. State Senator Joe Robach helped secure $1.7 million in additional state funding for the subsidies, Tucciarello so the overall budgeted amount — approximately $42 million — represents a slight increase.
The Number 1 priority of the budget has been to keep the tax rate flat, he said.
"We have done more with less every year" and county residents are better served as a result, Tucciarello said.