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Bello, facing an election challenge, pledges a Monroe County tax freeze

 County Executive Adam Bello standing at a podium flanked by Democratic and Republican legislators.
Jeremy Moule
County Executive Adam Bello announced Tuesday that he would keep the property tax levy flat in his 2024 budget.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello says he plans to freeze the amount of money the county will raise through property taxes for its 2024 budget.

Bello is months away from presenting that spending plan, but he announced the hold on the tax levy during a news conference Tuesday. He also said that because property values across the county are increasing, the move will translate into a tax cut for a lot of households, though it’s too early to know what the tax rates will be.

“This is the first time in 22 years Monroe County will be holding the property tax levy flat,” Bello said. “With common sense responsible budgeting, we're helping our families in Monroe County have more certainty over their household budgets. And we're renewing our commitment to be good stewards of the taxpayers money.”

Bello is up for election this year and he faces a challenge from Republican Mark Assini, the former Gates town supervisor.

Flanked by Democratic and Republican legislators, Bello also announced that the county’s credit rating has increased and that the county will be formalizing a policy to keep the balance of the county’s reserves at 10% of the budget, or roughly $130 million.

He said that his administration has worked to rebuild those reserves over the last three budgets and that the funds are currently at their target.

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Republican Majority Leader Steve Brew spoke in favor of the new policy, which will be submitted to and voted on by the Legislature.

“It is a strategic step that will equip us with the necessary tools to weather economic fluctuations, adapt to changes in state funding policies, and effectively respond to any catastrophic event that may arise,” Brew said.

Past county administrations, particularly that of Republican Jack Doyle, came under fire for holding the tax levy flat and drawing repeatedly from reserve funds.

The strategy then, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, meant that residents enjoyed lower taxes, even as their property values rose. But, eventually, the strategy caught up with Doyle. In his final year in office, in 2003, he raised taxes 13.3%, the largest spike in 20 years.

Bello said this time is different, because the county now has sufficient reserves to cover unanticipated expenses and emergencies and won’t have to resort to one-shot revenues to plug holes.

“Increases in our county's credit rating prove we're on the right financial path,” Bello said. “A fund balance policy will ensure we stick to that path long into the future. And because of our strong fiscal footing for the first time in 22 years, we're holding the tax levy flat.”

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