Updated 05/18/2012 05:00 PM
Mayor Richards Presents Budget Plan to City Council
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
"The city budget is more than balanced numbers,” said Tom Richards, (D), Rochester mayor.
Richards’ first line set the tone for his budget proposal. There are challenges, but quality of life won't be sacrificed.
"The significance of the balance is not found in the money, After all, that's the easiest thing to do. It's not complicated math. It's in the quality of life we can deliver."
The budget, contained in a thick binder for City Council to now peruse, totals $488 million. It includes a handful of layoffs and an increase in water bills to pay for ongoing water system improvements already underway.
Seventy million dollars is set aside for capital improvement projects, from demolishing vacant homes to infrastructure at the Midtown site. All of it's done without raising taxes.
"We've got to get off of this issue. We've got to get off and wean ourselves from constantly increasing the rate in order to chase the money,” said Richards. “And by the way it doesn't work anyway."
Richards' budget closes a projected $40 million gap, taking $3.5 million from the city's rainy day fund, while using more than $15 million in state aid.
The mayor says more structural changes are needed, to the way the city does business. If not, he says the deficit could grow to $100 million five or six years from now.
"I don't want us to get in the situation where two or three years from now we're destitute on the steps of Albany,” Richards said.
The budget also calls for city employees to start paying a portion of their own health care premiums. Richards says rising health care costs are "unsustainable."
"Let's be real here, this is a $3 million dollar issue in a $488 million dollar budget,” said Jim McTiernan, president of the firefighters’ union.
McTiernan says city unions have already made concessions that have saved the city significant money.
"When you look at the amount we're talking about as a percentage of the budget, three million dollars over three unions, yeah, I think we are going to say listen... we're not going to have perception as a problem... we'll deal with the real facts."
Richards says despite budget challenges that won't go away anytime soon, in Rochester, there's good reason for optimism.
"I intend for this city to thrive. I'm not interested in a plan that gets us by."