Multiple investments to improve public safety, strengthen code enforcement and expand the city’s nascent no-one-in-crisis team were priority items in a proposed city budget unveiled Friday by Mayor Malik Evans.
The $627 million spending plan represents a $55 million increase over the previous year, a figure that may seem astronomical but matches the country’s skyrocketing inflation rate of about 9%. About half of that growth comes from federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act directed to Rochester to offset pandemic-induced economic damage. Despite the large increase in the budget, the city’s tax levy has remained stable.
Taxes will remain stable for the average Rochester homeowner, who would see an increase in the tax bill of less than a dollar.
“Today I am filled with more optimism than on my first day in office,” Evans said. “I’m also filled with more gray hair on my head than on my first day in the office. The budget that I am submitting today is the expression of my skills, my ambitions and my abilities that our city has translated into concrete actions.
As the city continues to face an upsurge in violent crime and homicide, Evans’ 2023 budget proposal provides a boost to public safety spending.
Earlier this year, Evans announced he would move the city’s violence prevention initiatives under the mayor’s office. His budget proposal would provide an $8.4 million increase for programs under it, including Pathways to Peace and the Office of Neighborhood Safety.
The budget also includes a proposed increase of $630,000 for the People in Crisis Team (PIC) and sets the goal of staffing a 24-hour unit to respond to mental health crisis calls. weekdays and weekends. The PIC team was created following public outrage over the death of Daniel Prude at the hands of Rochester police officers, and is modeled after the CAHOOTS Mobile Crisis Response Unit in Eugene, Oregon.
Meanwhile, the Rochester Police Department’s budget would be cut by about $700,000 under Evans’ proposed spending plan, though it would still get $90 million. The Police Accountability Board will continue to receive a budget of $5 million.
The budget would also provide for six new trainee code enforcement officers to help strengthen the city’s code enforcement office. The goal of better enforcement of the code, as described in a statement from City Hall, is to “promote increased landlord accountability and property inspections.”
The budget would also allocate an additional $1 million to address recommendations from the City-County Commission on Racial and Structural Equity. The Commission first received a budget allocation of $1 million as part of Mayor Lovely Warren’s 2021-2022 plan.
COVID relief funds used in the budget would go to a handful of infrastructure projects, including replacing lead water pipes and the “Buy the Block” program, intended to support homeownership in the neighborhoods that were previously demarcated.
“I believe in Rochester and work hard to make a difference in our great city,” Evans said. “And I keep asking for everyone’s help. I am confident that through collaboration and investment together, we will create success without limits.
Evans’ budget will now be considered by City Council, which has set its first hearing for May 23.
Gino Fanelli is a staff writer at CITY. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or email@example.com.