Mayor’s Budget to Achieve Equity, Expand Pandemic Relief and Cut RPD Funding
By Tyronda James
Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren recently presented her 2021 – 2022 fiscal year budget that reflects her commitment to reversing the effects of historic racism and structural inequity and includes investments to expand pandemic-relief programs, hold taxes and fees at levels to reduce payments for homeowners and increase home ownership with its “Buy the Block” initiative in neighborhoods historically segregated by race.
The proposed $560.8 million budget, prepared using the City’s new Budget Equity Tool to align spending and equity priorities, would fund the Equity & Recovery Agenda or ERA Agenda and implement Race and Structural Equity Commission (RASE) recommendations.
“We stand at a very pivotal moment in our community,” Mayor Warren said.
“We can look forward to the future – clear-eyed and determined – and move full-speed ahead to build upon our past successes to build a brighter future with more jobs, safer more vibrant neighborhoods and greater educational opportunities. And, by doing so we will achieve equity and fairness for everyone. My proposed budget continues to invest in these goals while protecting our taxpayers.”
Warren said at the start of the budget process there was a projected $40.5 million budget gap that increased to $64.4 million as a result of this health crisis. “The budget I am submitting closes this gap and protects police, fire and other services like refuse collection and food distribution which are essential to our community and the residents we serve,” she said.
“I’m thankful that my budget continues to fund the city’s contribution to this effort in full so we can continue to ensure that our families in need don’t go hungry as our economy continues to be battered by COVID-19.”
The plan would cut funding for the Rochester Police Department, expand the city’s crisis intervention services and provide the Police Accountability Board with the $5 million it requested. It will give the PAB autonomy to hire staff and begin investigating allegations of officer misconduct.
It also furthers the mayor’s efforts on police reform, creating a Public Safety Commissioner and a focus on crime and violence reduction in the RPD.
Mayor Warren said in order to make the long-term changes for a short-term problem like closing firehouses or laying off police officers, the budget proposes a property tax increase. She said it will ensure that essential services including police and fire departments are unaffected by the crisis.
“Our neighborhood police section office on East Main Street will begin construction bringing our police back into our neighborhoods and creating new connections between our officers and the residents that they serve,” Warren said.
The plan also expands the Person in Crisis teams and Victim’s Assistance Unit and provides funds to the Office of Neighborhood Safety that will coordinate a Violence Reduction Strategy and the Peacemakers Fellowship, developing leadership qualities in residents who live near violence.
“It is the commitment of the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that each and every taxpayer dollar is allocated in the most efficient manner,” said Chris Wagner, Budget Director.
Wagner said through sound business practices, the City has remained financially stable and continues to pursue ways to grow the tax base. “Attracting new residents and businesses to the City of Rochester who will prosper, benefits the entire Rochester community, and speaks directly to our key priorities: more jobs, safer neighborhoods and better schools,” he said.
The budget can be viewed at www.cityofrochester.gov/budget.
Councilmember Malik D. Evans, Chair of City Council’s Finance Committee, recently announced that Council has scheduled its review process of the Mayor’s proposed 2021-22 City budget.
“Council takes very seriously our responsibility of reviewing the 2021-22 budget released by Mayor Warren. We intend to engage, as we do every year, in a thoughtful review of the budget,” said Council President Loretta C. Scott.
“Based on my initial review of the budget, I am pleased to see that vital services to our community will remain intact, and we are grateful for the CARES funding we have received over the past year that has helped to make this possible. It is also gratifying to note that the Police Accountability Board and other much needed public safety initiatives are being generously supported.”
In addition to Councilmember Evans, the Finance Committee is composed of Councilmembers Michael A. Patterson and LaShay D. Harris; President Loretta C. Scott and Vice President Willie J. Lightfoot serve as ex-officio members.
City Council will conduct its budget hearings live via YouTube and Cable Channel 1303. City residents and business owners can watch the Council’s in-depth review of the proposed spending plan.
There will be a joint proposed budget public hearing to be held by city council and the Board of Education, June 9. Voting is expected, June 15. Find details at www.cityofrochester.gov/publicmeetings.
The public is encouraged to contact the City Council Office at (585) 428-7538 or email@example.com with questions regarding review process.
“I look forward to working with City Council throughout the review process with the full confidence that together we will adopt a budget that delivers more jobs, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods and greater educational opportunities to our residents,” Warren said.