Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Richards: County budget includes new costs to city taxpayers

Posted By on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 4:11 PM

UPDATE 5:15 p.m. — County spokesperson Justin Feasel just e-mailed this statement in response to Richards' remarks:
"The implication that the county does not support city government is nonsense. This year, Monroe County will provide the city over $140 million in sales tax revenue, which subsidizes nearly 30 percent of the city budget. The 2014 county budget reflects the actual cost of providing these two services, which are provided exclusively to the City of Rochester. As has been publicly stated in the budget hearings, these items will be subject to contract negotiations that will take place with the mayor in the upcoming year." 

Original post: The Monroe County Legislature will hold its public hearing on the county's 2014 proposed budget tomorrow. But Rochester Mayor Tom Richards is speaking up — or out, as the case seems to be — a day early.

Richards just issued a press release addressing what he calls "unannounced charges to city taxpayers" in the budget proposal. The charges, he says in the press release, include a doubling of the amount that Rochester pays to house city prisoners awaiting arraignment in the county jail, he says, and a charge for maintaining traffic control devices — which the county has done since 1971.

"Together, these charges would negatively impact the city’s 2014-15 budget and subsequent budgets by $2.5 million annually," Richards says in the press release. "When factoring in the mandated payment the city must give to its schools, the county plan would result in a 5.2 percent tax increase on city residents and businesses. While I understand the stated goal of the county budget is to not raise county taxes, this plan would do just that as city residents and businesses are also county residents and businesses.

"Furthermore, city residents and businesses not only pay full county taxes, they also pay the highest percentage of Monroe County-imposed service charges over and above of their county tax burden," he says.

These costs first surfaced during Legislature committee meetings last week, as Democrats questioned the county administration. During a Public Safety Committee meeting, Legislator Josh Bauroth asked about the proposed increase in what the county charges the city to hold inmates who haven't been arraigned. Robert Franklin, the county's chief financial officer, said that the county anticipated an increase of $1 million in that contract.

He said that the county hoped to negotiate a new deal — the contract is renewed yearly — that would see the county reimbursed at the federal inmate rate (the federal government's estimate of what it costs to house an inmate for a day).

And during the Transportation Committee meeting, Democratic Legislator Michael Patterson asked about the traffic signal operation costs. Franklin said that other county governments are already charged for that, but the city is not. And county representatives would have to negotiate any charge with the city, Franklin said.

Richards sent a letter about the charges, which is attached below, to County Executive Maggie Brooks, Republican Majority Leader Steve Tucciarello, and Democratic Minority Leader Carrie Andrews. In the letter, Richards says that city officials believe the charges can't be applied because they are governed by longstanding  intermunicipal  agreements.

County Exec Budget Letter FINAL by jmouleatcity

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