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Bello's $1.3 billion budget gets decisive approval from legislators 

click to enlarge Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.


Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

The Monroe County Legislature passed Monroe County Executive Adam Bello’s $1.3 billion budget late Tuesday with minimal debate and two minor amendments.

The spending plan, which covers 2023 and takes effect in January, lowers the average tax rate on property owners, doubles county funding for small to mid-sized arts organizations, and boosts support for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to double the size of its tactical unit and add road patrol deputies.

In a statement following the vote, Bello said the budget fueled “key initiatives” of his administration while maintaining the programs and services county residents expect.

“It is a common-sense spending plan that maintains our focus on public safety, public health economic and workforce development and infrastructure while enacting the lower property tax rate in Monroe County’s recorded history,” Bello said.

The plan reduces the average property tax rate to $7.56 per $1,000 assessed value, down 90 cents from the current year’s $8.46 rate. The plan, however, anticipates a 1.2 percent increase in the tax levy due to a rise property assessments. The levy is projected to climb to $432.2 million from $425.3 million.

The budget is essentially an election year budget for Bello, a Democrat, that includes initiatives he could use as talking points on the campaign trail next year. His first term expires at the end of 2023.

It took legislators from both sides of the aisle just 20 minutes to unanimously approve the spending plan.

“I think it’s a great budget,” Republican Majority Leader Steve Brew said.

RELATED: Bello budget would boost spending on projects and public safety

RELATED: After courting artists, Bello doubles down on funding for the arts

Funding initiatives that would likely be part of a Bello re-election platform include those for public safety and the arts.

Spending at the Sheriff’s Office will rise by about 9 percent, or $14 million, under the plan. That additional funding will be used to double the size of the office’s tactical unit, add 11 road patrol deputies, and expand the Roc Tac threat assessment program, according to the administration.

The plan includes $1 million for grants to mid-sized arts and cultural groups. That doubles the $500,000 allotted to those groups in the current budget.

The new budget also includes funding for the first year of a three-year initiative to provide $60,000 annual grants to three local arts institutions: Garth Fagan Dance, Avenue Black Box Theatre, and the Hochstein School.

The budget also provides an additional $1.4 million for the county’s ongoing effort to decentralize its social services and locate them within trusted organizations in recipients’ neighborhoods. It also directs $1.5 million from the county’s share of a state opioid lawsuit settlement to expand Improving Addiction Coordinating Team and to continue the installation of boxes in public places.

Legislature President Sabrina LaMar, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, lauded the budget for its attention to the arts, public safety, addiction services, and salaries of working people in the Social Services Department.

“The budget accomplishes all of these things while giving taxpayers the largest rate decrease in decades,” LaMar said in a statement. “I am proud to have worked with County Executive Bello and his staff to shepherd this budget through the County Legislature.”

In 2023, the county will begin implementing the first phase of its Climate Action Plan. The approved budget will create an Environmental Quality Office within the county’s Department of Environmental Services to coordinate those efforts.

Legislators left the budget largely untouched from what Bello had first proposed last month, with two small exceptions.

Democratic Legislator Mercedes Vazquez Simmons introduced an amendment to create and fund the position of assistant public safety director, and Republican Legislator Jackie Smith introduced a measure to fund a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Both amendments passed with unanimous support.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's deputy editor. He can be reached at
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