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Bello's 2024 Monroe County budget proposal would boost spending, cut tax rate

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello laid out his 2024 budget proposal Tuesday.
Jeremy Moule
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello laid out his 2024 budget proposal Tuesday.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello on Tuesday laid out his 2024 budget proposal which, as previously announced, would slash the county property tax rate and hold the amount raised by those taxes flat.

Bello submitted his $1.4 billion plan to the County Legislature on Monday and briefed reporters on it Tuesday. If passed, it would set the tax rate at $6.65 per $1,000 assessed value. That’s 91 cents lower than the 2023 rate and the lowest rate in the county’s recorded history, according to Bello.

“I believe in the power of what local government can do,” Bell said. “Over the past three years, my spending plans have restored the county's fiscal integrity. We've restored our workforce, we've rehabilitated our infrastructure, and we're investing in the key functions of government, that in my view were ignored for far too long.”

The proposal is 9% larger than the approved 2023 county budget. Bello said the growth is concentrated in employee payroll and benefits, public assistance benefits and Medicaid, contractual services, and a one-time grant for public safety communications equipment.

But the plan also calls for a $20.5 million bump in the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office budget. That money will pay for additional deputies in the office’s three Road Patrol zones as well as its Traffic Enforcement Unit and Community Engagement Unit.

That funding represents the full-year cost for the Sheriff’s Office expansion approved earlier this year by the County Legislature, Bello said. The office added 41 deputies and created the Regional Investigative Operations Center, which coordinates investigations into patterns of criminal activity that span multiple communities, such as catalytic converter thefts.

Bello’s proposal would add four child care assistance examiners in the Department of Human Services, something he framed as an economic development matter. He said the new positions would help more families access child day care subsidies.

Democratic Legislator Rachel Barnhart has called on the Bello administration to increase spending on public assistance programs that provide direct support to people. She has focused on housing and has introduced legislation to establish a voucher program to help public assistance recipients pay their rent. A Legislature committee chair sent the proposal to the Bello administration for review, historically a tactic Republicans in the chamber have used to bury legislation.

Barnhart said she’s disappointed that Bello’s budget doesn’t include additional housing funding.

"I look forward to reviewing details of this budget proposal and plan to ask a lot of questions,” Barnhart said in a statement. “But upon first glance, it's clear that our housing crisis and finding new ways to assist people experiencing financial hardship are not priorities. When we say poverty is a policy choice - this document is a great example of what that means."

The proposal does include funding to launch a county emergency shelter for the homeless. The shelter will be set up in an old hotel at the edge of the Corn Hill neighborhood. Human Services Commissioner Thalia Wright said it will have embedded services and capacity for up to 70 families.

“That is huge as we are working out the logistics to hopefully roll that out starting next year, as we're finalizing the lease and getting the contracts in place for the organization that's going to be providing those services,” Wright said.

Bello also highlighted his proposal’s 25% increase in funding for arts organizations and a $75,000 allocation for a study on resuming the Monroe County Fair. The fair was last held in 2019.

For years, the arts community had urged the county to provide funding for the arts. In 2022, the Bello administration allocated $500,000 for small and mid-sized arts groups, 10 times the amount budgeted in previous year. The county made $900,000 available in 2023.

Bello’s 2024 proposal would allocate $1 million for small and mid-sized arts groups.

Jeremy Moule is a deputy editor with WXXI News. He also covers Monroe County.