A new fee to cover the cost of indigent burials included in County Executive Maggie Brooks's 2013 budget proposal would disproportionately affect city residents, says Carrie Andrews, Democratic Minority Leader in the Monroe County Legislature, and is "offensive and reprehensible."
The city has a high concentration of people living in poverty, which is the population most likely to receive burial assistance payments. And the fee — called a "chargeback" — would be determined in part by where the deceased lived.
"Clearly, this chargeback is a slap in the face to the poor in the community," she says.
Chargebacks are fees for specific county services charged to taxpayers on a community by community basis. The county has been increasingly using chargebacks to balance its budget.
The indigent burial fee is one of two new chargebacks in the county's 2013 budget proposal. The other applies solely to suburban property owners, who'd be charged $15 per $100,000 in assessed property value to cover the $5 million cost of contracting with towns to plow county roads.
Brooks has proposed a $1.2 billion budget with a property tax rate of $8.99 per $1,000 assessed value — the same rate that's been in place for several years. But during that same period, the county has implemented chargebacks to fund several areas of the budget. And the amount that the county raises through basic property taxes continues to increase. That amount is going up by $2 million in 2013, thanks to growth in the tax base.
Legislature Democrats say the administration is using chargebacks to disguise what would otherwise be tax increases. But county spokesperson Justin Feasel said in a written statement that in the case of the plowing fee, Democrats are attacking a solution that serves drivers and protects taxpayers while ignoring the root cause of budget growth: unfunded state mandates.
"Their partisan attacks ring especially hollow considering this is a group that votes against flat property taxes each and every year," Feasel said.
Most Members of the Democratic caucus usually vote against Brooks's budget proposals.
Democrats' complaints about the indigent burials chargeback parallels the criticisms lodged against the Monroe Community College chargebacks. In MCC's case, the amount property owners pay is based on the number of MCC students who live in their community. The indigent burials chargeback would be based on where the deceased lived. Both chargebacks also take into account the taxable value of properties from community to community.
Last week, Feasel said county officials were still determining the indigent burial and MCC chargeback rates for communities.
The county started funding its contribution to Monroe Community College through chargebacks in the 2008 budget. Under the 2013 budget proposal, the county is contributing $18.4 million to MCC, a $500,000 increase from 2012. At least twice as many MCC students live in the City of Rochester than in any single town in Monroe County.
The County Legislature will hold a public hearing on the 2013 budget proposal at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 6, at the County Office Building, 39 West Main Street. It'll vote on the proposal at its December 11 meeting.