UPDATE: In each budget, the City earmarks a certain amount of money for capital improvements; roads, bridges they're responsible for, and other infrastructure projects. Each year there is millions of dollars from that fund that is not used. That money is put into Cash Capital - a fund in which the City can then do whatever it wants with it. Some people think capital projects are put into the budget on purpose so when they are not done (or done under budget) that money can go right to Cash Capital. Kind of slushy, isn't it? Anyway, we never get to know how much money is in this fund because the amount is not public (another thing I will work to change). The Cash Capital fund can fund a lot of the things our community needs - at least until we tighten up our budget making procedures.
The City of Rochester’s annual budget is approximately $540 million a year. It’s a lot of money, but we use some of it on import ant, life saving things such as infrastructure, garbage collection, the fire department and more. But we also waste a lot of money that could be used to keep libraries open more, reduce crime in humanistic ways, make sure people have appropriate places to live, fight climate change, and all of the other things I would like to work on when elected to City Council. Below are just some of the changes I would advocate for that would save money. Many of them are based on the research of Alex White.
Over the last 10 years, the City of Rochester has increased the amount of paid employees by over 200 people. And this is with an actual decrease in employees in our libraries, recreation centers and Fire Department. Most of this overall increase has been at the managerial level. This does not cost us in just salaries, but benefits as well. In the Communications Department alone, more than 1 in 3 people are in management. This is a huge waste of money and management levels should be recalculated in every department and appropriate reductions should be made.
Rochester Police Department
Rochester has one of the largest percentages of sworn police officers in comparison to population in the state. There are a number of tasks that used to be done by civilians that are now done by higher-paid officers. We should go back to the use of civilians in such roles (e.g. monitoring blue light cameras, Citizen Engagement, etc.). The officers currently doing such tasks should be back on the street as we eliminate some officer positions via attrition to get the number back to a more appropriate level. This would save us approximately $4 million.
[What about public safety? As you can see by my platform planks on police accountability, restorative justice, worker-owned businesses, and more, dealing with many of our society’s issues with law enforcement is inappropriate, ineffective, and inefficient. The money we save here would be spent on better ways of dealing with our City’s problems.]
As I have said in a different part of my platform, we must stop using corporate welfare as an economic development policy. In 2017 & 2018 we spent $41 million in cash giveaways to developers who do not actually live in the City of Rochester. On some of the projects, these developers have said that their projects would get done even without the City’s handout. We put tax dollars straight into their pockets (and out of the City of Rochester). This must stop. Money given to developers could instead be used to support dozens of smaller, worker-owned businesses in the most depressed areas of Rochester. Trickle-UP economics.
We should eliminate the Municipal Violations Bureau and allow these issues to be handled by the state-funded Rochester City Court. This would save $1 million.
We must tighten rules that force the City to bid out contracts for services that we pay for (e.g. parking garages run by private companies, etc.). City Hall is very lax with the procedure for contracts.
We should reduce the size of the City’s fleet of vehicles. The large number of vehicles that the City operates includes cars for the Human Resources, Emergency Communications, Finance, and Communications departments. The costs of purchasing and maintaining these vehicles are expenses that we do not need. This money should be used for more important issues than department heads and managers having a “company car”, particularly as we’re the company.
This is so big that it gets its own section. The City of Rochester spends $80 million a year buying stuff it needs to function. Sure, we are talking about office supplies and the like, but also grass seed, replacement light bulbs, lubricants, and so forth. The problem is with the procedure in which we do this buying. Currently, the City uses a State list to tell us what we should spend on items. What we should be doing instead is using a concept called Strategic Sourcing, which is a detailed procedure that would save us almost $10 million a year.
We need to start combining functions that the City, County, and City School District all do in order to save money. For example, aspects of Information Technology (IT) and Human Resources could be consolidated to save millions. There may be some contraction of employee positions, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be so. The big money will be in the purchasing power of equipment and software licensing. Maintenance of various infrastructures could be done within different jurisdictions, saving money. We could even include surrounding towns that want to get in on this action.
This is a complicated concept, but only because we have created such a labyrinth of government that sharing resources is difficult. These turf boundaries have been created over the years by government and can certainly be undone by government. We will probably have to start small and work our way to bigger things, but this can be done with elected officials who have the political will to make it happen.
I do not have a specific amount of dollars we would save by doing everything I have spelled out here. The total amount would vary from year to year based on a number of unforeseeable circumstances. But it is obvious that we can do better with our money; how we collect it, how we spend it, and how we don’t spend it.