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City budget cuts Mounted Patrol, 311 hours

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Rochester Mayor Tom Richards has proposed a $482 million budget for 2013 to 2014 that cuts the city's Mounted Patrol, closes the 311 service during the overnight hours, and defers a chunk of the city's pension obligation.

The property tax rate would not go up, but most homeowners would see an increase in their tax bill due to increased service fees and state-mandated tax shift. City residents with homes assessed at $70,000 would see their taxes increase about $42 a year, Richards said.

Parking fees in downtown garages would go up slightly, he said, mostly to pay for maintenance of the facilities.

In terms of public safety, the budget cuts the Mounted Patrol but redeploys the patrol's officers to fight gang violence and major crimes, Richards said. The budget also funds a 25-member recruit class for the Rochester Police Department in February 2014.

The Rochester Fire Department would get four new officers and there would be two recruit classes.

The 311 call service, which currently takes residents' nonemergency calls and service requests 24 hours a day, would be closed from 11 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. -- a time when the service gets few calls, Richards said.  The aides who staff the phones would do other public safety tasks during that time, Richards said, such as monitor surveillance cameras.

Richards wants to buy into a state plan that would allow the city to defer a chunk of its pension obligation. The move would save the city $10.9 million in the new budget, Richards said, which would help preserve vital services.

The budget also includes additional funding for youth and recreation, which would, in part, fund afterschool programs at School 17 and the Edgerton Community Center. The library system is also getting more money, but eliminating six full-time positions -- reflecting, Richards said, a change in the way libraries are used.

Richards wants to spend $150,000 to add snow routes for a faster snowplow response. He also wants to add positions in the city's Neighborhood and Business Development and information technology departments.

Hearings on the budget will be held on June 4 and June 11. City Council will vote on June 18.

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