by Jeremy Moule
Democratic Legislator Paul Haney says that Monroe County has real financial problems and that a recent action by Moody's Investors Service to downgrade it's bond credit rating "has certified" as much.
The financial analysis company downgraded the county's rating yesterday, and this afternoon County Legislature Democrats held a press conference to address the action. Haney said that the Democrats, who are the minority party in the Legislature, have raised concerns similar to those highlighted by Moody's.
Moody's said the county's budgets have been structurally imbalanced and rely too much on one-shot revenues, such as the tax lien sales included in this year's spending plan.
For the past several years, the county has included the sale of the Edwards block and Terminal buildings in the budget, with the planned income from those sales increasing each year, Haney said. That's one sign that the county is starting to run out of usable one-shots, Haney said.
Democrats say they want to work with Republican legislators and the administration of Republican County Executive Maggie Brooks to find solutions, Haney said. Democrats offered up a list of cuts they've proposed over the last few years, which include:
· Eliminating a $492,000 payment the county gives to the Greater Rochester Sports Authority;
· Ending the county's $900,000-a-year lease for parking lots on West Main Street;
· Reducing the size of the County Legislature from 29 to 15 members, a move they say would save $500,000 a year.
Speaking to the media after the Democrats' press conference, county Chief Financial Officer Robert Franklin said taxpayers shouldn't have "an immediate concern" regarding the Moody's action. The county is through borrowing for 2013 and won't go back until mid-2014, at which point the ratings agencies will weigh in again, he said.
Franklin also said that Moody's and other ratings firms basically want Monroe County to raise taxes, which officials are unwilling to do.
"I'm a little disappointed in Moody's downgrade," Franklin said. "It's nothing we haven't heard from Wall Street before."