Brooks releases 2014 budget proposal


Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks says that her $1 billion-plus budget proposal for 2014 would keep the tax rate flat at 8.99 per $1,000 assessed value.

During tonight's meeting of the County Legislature, Brooks gave legislators an overview of her proposal, and it'll be a surprise to few that she led her presentation with the tax rate. The rate has been the same since 2008, she said.
The Legislature will hold a public hearing on the budget proposal at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, in the Legislature chambers at the County Office Building, 39 West Main Street.

Brooks did not mention any major new initiatives during her presentation. She said that the county would fund child day care subsidies to the tune of $4.8 million, which is more than its required to contribute by the state — which provides the bulk of that funding.

But Brooks also said that it's short of the additional $1 million that some community members have pressured her for. That amount would have required cuts to other programs, she said.

The proposed funding level would mean that no children currently enrolled in the subsidy program would lose their slots, Brooks said. But she alluded to a day care subsidy fund-raising effort, with details due in the coming days. 

The county faced a $45 million "mandate driven structural deficit" at the start of the budget development process, Brooks said. That was whittled down through various measures. And those cuts would carry over, resulting in smaller deficits for the next two budgets, she said. 

Professional and management staff would not receive raises, Brooks said, and the county is changing its health care to a self-insured arrangement. And Brooks said that the county expects to save $6 million through the elimination of 121 staff positions. Most will be cut through attrition, though 15 positions will be eliminated through layoffs, county Chief Financial Officer Robert Franklin told the press after the presentation.

The county also plans to defer several million dollars in pension contributions. Franklin said that the deferrals over the past few budgets equal roughly $60 million, which the county will have to pay back over 10 years.

The budget also includes $10.2 million in revenue from tax lien sales and $4.5 million in additional federal Medicaid reimbursements, Brooks said. And she said that that there are no new "below the line chargebacks" in the budget.

Democrats, however, are suspicious of the proposal.

"Until we start asking questions, we don't know what's in the budget," said Democratic Minority Leader Carrie Andrews.

For example, she said, it wasn't until Democrats reviewed Brooks's 2013 budget that it became clear it included a new fee to suburban Monroe County residents for snowplowing services.

And certain phrases Brooks used during her presentation, such as "gap revenue adjustments," raised more questions than they answered.