First Look at City Budget Proves Daunting
We got our first good look at the City of Rochester budget Thursday evening, and the outlook is daunting. The City is facing close to a $30 million deficit, and projected cuts will not fully close the gap.
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"The city's at a point where we have to make some choices," said Tom Richards, (D), Rochester mayor.
There are never any easy choices when it comes to the city budget.
"It's not just about doing the math; these are things that affect people's quality of life, and the services that people rely on," said Chris Wagner, budget director.
But a deficit is a deficit. And Rochester is facing one, close to $30 million.
"They're a lot closer to it than we are, when you get right down to it," Richards said.
That's why the City is going back to the citizens.
"So as we make those choices, it's important that we make them in a way that you believe is sensible," said Richards.
It's a tall order this year.
In 2012, the city was facing a $40 million deficit, then received a $15.4 million shot in the arm: what's called a "spin-up" grant, from the state. That won't be happening this year.
To replace the gap, the city can reduce capital projects, increase the tax levy by two percent, manipulate pension payments, and have each department take a spending cut; and the city is still left with a $6 million budget gap.
"We do have some reserves that we can tap, you know, so we're not bankrupt, we're not close to that yet," Wagner said. "We do have some options, but we have to make some tough choices, too."
Some of those tough choices that were discussed Thursday, including reducing or eliminating the police mounted patrol, cutting back on road repaving projects, or raising tax assessments for all the city's industrial properties. All of this is sort of a preliminary think-tank right now, as Council will not vote on a budget until June 18.