The proposed 2017-2018 city budget does nothing to create jobs or reduce poverty. In fact, it does the opposite.
Lovely Warren touted a $35 average savings for homeowners, thanks to a property tax reduction combined with a fee increase. True property tax reduction provides relief and creates value. This only gives residents enough money for a dinner out.
What’s more disturbing is the budget raises the commercial tax rate by 4.5 percent. The average business now has to pay an extra $485 next fiscal year, $510 when fee increases are included. Since rental units of four or more are included in the commercial tax rate, this cost is passed onto a huge portion of the city’s renters, who are already severely burdened.
The city has a 14 percent unemployment rate. One-third of our residents live in poverty. Warren will have increased spending 9 percent during her tenure, double the rate of inflation, while not making a dent in the city’s serious problems.
Warren is touting the city’s partnership with the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. After two years of study, the only thing RMAPI has come up with is a program to counsel a mere 300 families at a cost of $3 million in state funds. Only two dozen families have said they’re interested. RMAPI should have a team aggressively coming up with solutions to affordable housing, childcare, transit and job creation. Instead, Warren is cheering the replication of anti-poverty bureaucracies. The public deserves a full accounting of monies spent, payroll and annual budgets for RMAPI. (The city told me in a December response to my Freedom of Information request that it has no such budget documents. Empire State Development also says it has no RMAPI budget documents. United Way, which runs RMAPI, is not subject to open records laws.)
Even Warren’s signature initiative, Operation Transformation, shows after six months, only 40 of 80 participants placed in jobs last year retained employment. That’s out of 500 people who sought help from the program. This is an example of the program-first mentality we must stop. Warren loves rolling out expensive programs that actually help few people.
City Hall travel records show Warren has gone to Washington, D.C. eight times during her tenure as mayor. She’s stated in public forums that the city gets more money in federal aid as a result. Yet the budget document shows a $204,000 reduction next fiscal year.
State funding is also an issue. Warren clearly has not been able to provide the leadership necessary to obtain Rochester’s fair share. We are getting $6 million less from the state this year, thanks to the disappearance of one-time aid. We will still get more than $200 less per person in state aid than Buffalo. We still have to give our schools $50 million more than Buffalo.
My administration will focus on big picture policies that will lift up everyone. I’ve proposed a long term reduction in the property tax levy, which would provide relief, create value and attract new families and businesses to the city. I’ve proposed funding 1,000 additional childcare spots. I’ve proposed a fiber internet network that would be free to families and attract jobs.
We must stop creating budgets that manage problems and nibble around the edges of solutions. We must start reforms that will make Rochester a city of opportunity for everyone.