What the Budget Tells me

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The City has put out its new budget and, as required by law, it is balanced. This has been done by getting $15 million from the state, cutting some capital expenditures, using $3.5 million from reserves, asking unions to pay more for health care, and claiming sales taxes will increase by $3.5 million.

What was not cut though is perhaps more interesting. The City has a few major areas of investment and no funds for these were touched. In the next budget we will be spending $12,851,000 on the Marina and Midtown Rising. Of this, only $750,000 will be coming form another government agency. So after the State raised our Aid and Incentives to Municipalities for one year we went out and spent most of this money on 2 building projects. It seems odd that we are putting off road repair, asking unions to give concessions on one year-old contracts, dipping into the reserve, canceling funding programs which help our young people graduate high school, cutting funding for recreation, and scaling back library services so we can pay for building projects. In fact, these two projects represent 40% of the total capital expenditures for the City in the next budget year.

So what are we getting for our money?

For Downtown, we have reconstruction on the old Midtown site with roads, sidewalks, infrastructure, and landscaping. This 16-acre site has 2 projects on it. One is the Windstream building, which is owned by Pike and is an $18 million investment to turn a once-viable building into something usable. There is also the Midtown Tower, which was given to Conifer for $1 and as of today, nothing has been done with this. To date over $150 million of public money has been spent on this site and we have been able to secure less than $20 million of investment. Now we are throwing more money at this huge money pit.

The Marina is a more interesting project. This project presently does not have a developer or a plan but we are spending $8.5 million to put a marina in an area which is already serviced by 3 other marinas, none of which were filled to capacity last year. With rising gas prices and an unstable economy, it seems that there would be little demand for another marina, but the plan is to create an inducement for condominiums to be built, thus creating demand for the new marina. This seems like a lot of speculation with questionable pay back, particularly at a time of another budget crisis.

These are only the largest projects as College Town is getting $450,000, High Falls is getting another $271,000, and Erie Harbor is getting another $480,000. So it seems that the big winners of the budget are the developers, which makes me wonder what are the priorities of our City leaders?


Listen to Alex...

...on Transforming Rochester on Rochester Free Radio. You can see when it's on at the Rochester Free Radio show schedule.

Search This Site