Dinolfo announces county tax rate cut, but tax levy expected to increase

Oct 31, 2019

County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo announces her 2020 Budget plans
Credit James Brown / WXXI

With Election Day looming and facing a spirited challenge, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo on Thursday revealed a budget for next year that includes a new property tax rate cut.

The county property tax rate would fall by 10 cents -- to $8.79 per $1,000 of assessed value -- under her budget. The spending plan requires approval by the County Legislature, which has historically adopted the county executive’s budget with few, if any, modifications.

The rate cut would be the second in as many years. Dinolfo last year also reduced the rate by 10 cents, to the current $8.89 per $1,000 of assessed value.

But the reduction does not mean property owners will be paying less in taxes next year. Indeed, her proposed budget projects the property tax levy -- the amount the county expects to collect in property taxes in 2020 -- to rise by $9.5 million, or roughly 2.4 percent, to $403.9 million.

The pattern follows that of the current year, in which the tax levy rose by $11.6 million, or 3 percent, to $394.4 million, despite a tax rate cut. The increase was due largely to revaluations in property assessments that saw home values in the county rise across the board.

In a prepared statement announcing her budget, however, Dinolfo cast her back-to-back tax cuts as “returning a combined $9 million to local taxpayers.”

That figure represents the sum of what property owners would have had to pay in additional property tax had the tax rate stayed flat.

In fact, though, due largely to the rise in assessments, taxpayers will have paid a combined $21.1 million more in property taxes to the county between 2019 and 2020, should the latest budget be adopted.

The tax rate cut was announced as the race for county executive between Dinolfo, a Republican who was first elected in 2015, and her Democratic opponent, Adam Bello, the county clerk, appears to be tightening.

State campaign finance records show the pair have spent a combined $1.2 million on the race, with Bello holding a slight edge in fundraising and Dinolfo outpacing him in spending.

Bello said that Dinolfo isn't being honest about county taxes. She's trying to convince county homeowners that she's cutting taxes when that's not the case, he said.

Taxpayers "know the bill isn't going down," he said.

Jeremy Moule is CITY Newspaper's news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.