Rochester’s proposed 2022 municipal budget is unlikely to face many changes before it is passed early next month.
“I’ve gotten to the point where I’m comfortable with the recommended budget right now,” Rochester City Council member Patrick Keane said during Monday’s budget review.
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At least one board member wants cuts to the spending plan of $ 494.4 million, but details were not provided in a review Monday afternoon.
“I think we can find places to cut unnecessary spending,” Council member Molly Dennis said, citing concerns over a proposed 6.5% increase in the city’s property tax. “It’s not necessarily the council’s job to go to the post (to suggest cuts). We have expert staff in every department who can say, ‘Well we can cut back a little here or a little there’ to keep the property affordable for people because there is an incredible amount of unnecessary expense here. and there. ”
City administrator Alison Zelms said city staff have already cut spending and kept the levy as low as possible.
“We have really taken into account the impact on taxpayers with this budget,” she said, noting that the city is using $ 1.5 million in federal funds to reduce reliance on property taxes. .
She said the budget also maintains $ 3.3 million in spending cuts made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Any further reduction in overall property taxes collected would reduce funding for municipal programs that do not have alternative revenue sources, she said.
“The library, recreation services and public safety are primarily funded by property taxes,” she said. “These are things that we hear are very important to people.”
Zelms said previous suggestions to reduce spending on destination medical center projects would not affect the city’s property tax collection.
“There is no property tax levy that goes to DMC’s capital projects, so if we were to adjust them it wouldn’t impact the tax levy,” she said.
The city administrator noted that DMC projects play a role in attracting new development, which increases the value of downtown properties, offsetting taxes elsewhere in the city.
The tax increase, she said, is the increase in total tax collected, so the 6.5% increase is not necessarily the rate that individual property tax owners will see. on their bills.
Council member Shaun Palmer said the typical homeowner will see an increase of $ 25 if their property’s value remains stable.
Dennis, however, said property values are on the rise for affordable homes, which will increase potential tax bills.
“It will be more than that,” she said of Palmer’s estimate.
City Council President Brooke Carlson said this created a challenge for a growing community with increased spending as it sought to maintain expected services.
“For me, it’s a balancing act,” she said.
The board will be asked to make a final decision on the budget at its December 6 meeting, following a public hearing on the spending plan and the proposed tax levy.