Bello proposes $1.28 billion 2022 budget to ‘bring Monroe County back’

Monroe County

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello unveiled the proposed 2022 county budget Tuesday morning inside the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center at SUNY Brockport’s downtown campus.

“The budget I’m proposing today contains real dollars and priorities I pledge to deliver to the people of Monroe County,” Bello said.

The county executive said the proposed budget calls for $1.28 billion in spending — an increase of 3.4%, but two full percentage points below the national rate of inflation of 5.4%.

Budget highlights include:

  • Lowering property tax rate to lowest levels in Monroe County since 2003
  • Eliminating $2.5 million county legislature “slush fund”
  • Raise county employee minimum wage to $15 per hour
  • Increases in spending for sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office, and public defender’s office
  • Expanded funding for youth services
  • $7.2 million to renovate, repair and upgrade county parks
  • $450,000 to invest in small and medium-sized arts organizations
  • $12 million to upgrade Frontier Field so it meets new MLB guidelines

According to the county executive, priorities of the 2022 budget include investing in public safety and health, engaging the economy and workforce, and rebuilding community infrastructure.

“The path ahead for us is clear,” bello said. “We started a new day in this community as Monroe County embarks on our next 200 years. The proposed budget is not merely a plan to bring Monroe County back, it’s a statement that we are already doing so.”

The county executive also said the budget calls for lowering the county’s property tax rate by $0.07 to an average of $8.46 per $1,000 of taxable value.

“This is the lowest tax rate the county has had since 2003,” Bello said. “It’s a tax rate that recognizes the uncertainty we’ve all faced while the pandemic threatened our economy.”

The county executive says his budget proposal also calls for the removal of a multi-million dollar “slush fund.”

“The 2022 budget eliminates the $2.5 million slush fund created by the Republican legislature to fund pet projects,” Bello said. “Slush funds have no place in a responsible budget.”

Among other revenue paths, the county executive said the county expects to see an increase of $27.2 million in sales taxes, an increase of $160,000 in hotel taxes, and an additional $22.7 million in state aide. He said miscellaneous revenue was down by approximately $3 million, but said it was due to the elimination of tax lean sales.

“It’s another budget trick,” Bello said. It hurts our neighborhoods by the sale of so-called zombie homes.”

Addressing public safety, the county executive said the budget calls for an increase in funding for the sheriff’s office by $4.9 million. Additionally, Bello said the budget shows a spending increase of 3.4% for the public safety department, 6.1% to the district attorney’s office and 6.1% to the public defender’s office.

“Law enforcement and the criminal justice system need resources to keep us safe — that’s common sense,” Bello said. “But public safety is also about prevention. This budget includes additional funding to improve addiction prevention team, and expands that to 24/7 service.”

On investing in youth, Bello said the budget calls for $250,000 to fund services to save homeless children or those who run away.

“Public safety is also about investing in young people so they are better prepared to set goals and make positive choices,” Bello said. “We’re putting more dollars in our youth bureau.”

Additionally, the budget calls for county employees to be paid at least $15 per hour.

“Increasing the minimum wage for county workers to $15 per hour recognizes the value of people behind the jobs that keeps our community moving forward,” Bello said. “The pay increase means an extra $8,200 per year in pockets.”

According to the county executive, the employee minimum wage raise will go into effect January 1. As a whole, Bello said the county’s unemployment rate peaked during the pandemic at more than 16%, but has since fell to 4.7%, below the statewide average.

“This budget will extend the Empower Program, which trains people at MCC to have essential skills for existing jobs and connects them with employers,” Bello said. “We continue our work with the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency on RETAIN, a first-in-the-country program that works with college grads to keep them in our area.”

The county executive said the budget also full funds the Monroe County Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“We cannot move forward if we keep the same systems in place that were there to keep people from being involved,” Bello said.

Bello also said the budget calls for $7.2 million to renovate and rebuild county parks and outdoor facilities.

“This funding address deteriorating shelters, lodges, courts, access roads, parking lots and bathroom facilities at all of our county parks,” Bello said. “It pays for all Go Outside Monroe work, which should be complete by next year, and we’re also continuing our renovations at the Seneca Park Zoo, where the new Trailside Cafe is expected to be completed by next year.”

The budget also includes hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund projects and buildings where activities revolving around the arts can take place.

“The county didn’t do enough for arts organizations, even long before the pandemic struck,” Bello said. “We’re an area known for our arts and culture, and they push more than $93 million into our county’s economy every year. For too long, the county ahs focused on larger organizations, leaving crumbs on the table for smaller organizations. This budget increases funding available for small and medium-sized art groups by tenfold and an overall increase of $450,000, the first step towards parity.”

Lastly, Bello said Monroe County will also work to ensure Frontier Field is compliant as far as MLB-mandated upgrades for stadium are concerned.

“I would not let community baseball leave Rochester,” the county executive said. “The Red Wings have played here since 1887. This budget funds $12 million in MLB-mandated upgrades to be certain that for next spring, and many springs after that, we’ll continue to hear ‘play ball’ ring out across Frontier Field.”

Despite the fiscal problems caused by the pandemic, Bello says Monroe County is poised for a strong economic rebound.

“Though we’re not out of the woods yet, we’re showing that our county is on track for recovery,” Bello said.

In a public statement issued by Republican Majority Leader Steve Brew, he underscored the newly-placed budget, in part saying:

As we have come to expect from County Executive Bello – he claims one thing in public while attempting to do another behind your back. Bello expects our community to believe he is cutting taxes when he is actually hiking taxes by nearly $10 million — on top of the $11 million tax levy increase he imposed last year. Unfortunately for the County Executive — taxpayers are smarter than that — and there is no hiding the pocketbooks of our neighbors from their own eyes.

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Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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