The Rochester City Council on Monday decided it will ask voters for $2 million a year in property tax funds for the city's parks system.
While there's no question Rochester's parks are valued and used, the council's action begs the question: Why now?
The council's decision authorizes a referendum seeking $2 million annually in property tax revenue. Voters will see the question on their ballots come November. But the decision to act now is surprising amid the current economic climate and global pandemic.
By putting the decision directly in voters’ hands (which we agree is ultimately where property tax questions should be decided) the city places the onus on property owners, many of whom are already in tight financial situations.
The increase may be minimal to homeowners. The proposed measure would add $33 a year to the tax bill of a homeowner with a $200,000 home. But it comes on top of a $180.9 million bond voters approved last year to upgrade schools.
For local businesses already struggling with the pandemic, any added fee can threaten survival. We have seen a handful of businesses close this year, and we would prefer not to lose any more due to taxes and fees that could be avoided.
Parks need the money. The city's 2016 Parks and Recreation System Plan identified more than $80 million in potential improvements based on increased demand and proposed upgrades. The parks have also seen increased use by people seeking respite from COVID-19 lockdowns.
But we would recommend finding the money for parks elsewhere in the city's budget.
Perhaps the council might reconsider their salary increases?