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Monroe County GOP legislators want details on budget impact of COVID-19 

Republicans in the Monroe County Legislature are demanding that County Executive Adam Bello tell legislators how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting county finances.

Majority Leader Steve Brew and Legislator George Hebert sent a letter to Bello asking him to disclose any existing budget deficit and to recommend cuts “to rebalance the budget.”

“Monroe County expected to take in $158 million in sales tax in 2020,” reads the letter. “Given the economic downturn resulting from COVID-19, that is no longer a reasonable projection. To date, you have failed to update the Legislature and taxpayers on how you will address the expected revenue shortfall.”

The county’s budget is roughly $1.2 billion.

In the letter, Brew and Hebert knocked Bello for not filing required monthly budget reports with the Legislature. They also wrote that they believe the county is already running a deficit, and referenced a county law requiring the county executive to notify the Legislature when revenues may not be enough to meet budgeted appropriations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has blown holes in budgets at all levels of government. As state lawmakers headed into budget season, the state faced a $6 billion deficit. Earlier this month, they approved a stripped-down budget meant to accommodate a deficit that Governor Andrew Cuomo had said could reach $15 billion.

Brew and Hebert noted that Erie County officials are projecting a $200 million revenue shortfall, while Onondaga County leaders project a deficit of $50 million to $100 million.

A spokesperson for Bello did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Legislator Vince Felder, the Democratic minority leader, issued a statement chastizing the Republican caucus for acting in what he called “a partisan manner” during the health crisis.

“We understand that every state and local government in America is hurting financially because of loss of revenue during this COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement read. “This kind of grandstanding is both ill-advised and unnecessary. I am certain that the county executive would have provided this information if asked in a bipartisan way by the entire Legislature.”

Felder added that the Bello administration inherited the budget, which was adopted under the administration of former County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, a Republican, and approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Bello defeated Dinolfo this past November.

“We should not be playing petty politics during a pandemic,” Felder said. “We should be working together to protect our community as best we can.”

Jeremy Moule is CITY’s news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.

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