The city of Rochester's local property tax levy will grow by about 9.2 percent next year — more than the Rochester City Council wanted to raise local taxes, but resulting in a budget that council members said still fails to meet some significant community needs.
The council at its Monday regular meeting approved a 2017 city budget of $237 million with a property tax levy of $62.5 million. The local levy is about 9.2 percent higher than the $57.2 million collected this year.
Council member Mark Bilderback said the council members struggled to make a workable budget that addressed needs without hurting taxpayers too much.
"We need to be concerned about where we're going and how much of that money is coming out of your pockets," he said. "I represent a lot of people on fixed incomes and there's nothing harder than having to sit there and listen to people talk about how difficult it is to make ends meet."
The council did find room in the budget to add positions to the police and fire departments, to begin chipping away at a large street maintenance deficit and to address a growing infestation of emerald ash borer in the community.
The budget did not go as far as the council had hoped, though. Council member Nick Campion said his biggest regret in the budget was not directing more funding to the emerald ash borer mitigation plan, as it had agreed earlier in the year to do.
The council's approved budget also left out a new staff position that many members in the community had asked the council to include: a sustainability coordinator to work on environmental issues and to seek additional grant funding. Several residents renewed that request at Monday's meeting.
The council was able to reach a small compromise on that front. Late in the meeting, the council voted to fund one-fifth of the cost for a similar staff position at the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency. The DMC agency had agreed to share the position with the city, and the employee would work one day a week on citywide issues, said Assistant City Administrator Gary Neumann.
The roughly $25,000 in salary and benefit costs the city will contribute next year will be paid from this year's contingency account. It did not add to the city's 2017 budget or tax levy.
Rochester tax levy history
Year Levy % change
2017 $62.5M 9.2%
2016 $57.2M 6.96%
2015 $53.5M 6.9%
2014 $50.0M 0%
2013 $50.0M 4.41%
2012 $47.9M 4.59%
2011 $45.8M 3.52%
2010 $44.2M 6.29%
2009 $41.5M 3.81%
2008 $40.0M 6.75%
Source: City of Rochester