Former educator, current educational advocate and labor relations specialist.
The main challenge facing Monroe County is revitalizing our local economy and bringing more jobs to the area with smart, long-term planning. Unfortunately, Monroe County has struggled in improving its fiscal situation, now rated stable. In fact, in 2015, the state Comptroller's Office ranked Monroe County as the most fiscally stressed local governments in New York state. That creates significant challenges to helping to bring more businesses and jobs to the county.
First, I would propose the county budget in a more transparent, responsible, and responsive manner. Next, I would suggest working closely with the Greater Rochester Enterprise organization to leverage our regional assets to encourage business expansion and to bring new businesses to our county. Doing so will allow the county to better deliver the services residents expect and deserve, and improve the financial health of the county as a whole.
The county has to make financial stability a high priority, and how to do so is complex. A first step is to budget in a more transparent and responsible manner. While the county has been raising the tax levy consistently over the past decade, they have kept the tax rate flat by spending down assets or removing items from the budget and charging for those services in another way. It is imperative that the county legislature monitor spending to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent in the most efficient manner possible. And be clear to residents how “one-shot” revenues are used to pay for recurring expenses (a bad practice).
One way out of this downward spiral of fiscal instability is to expand the tax base by bringing in new businesses or encouraging business expansion. Unfortunately, employment of county residents has been flat for the past eight years. That has to change. Adopting the strategies of Greater Rochester Enterprise would be helpful in making economic development a priority.
One of the biggest obstacles to aging in place is the cost of living. The county must develop a plan to work with local real estate developers to increase the accessibility of affordable housing for seniors, especially those on limited incomes. It would also be helpful if those developments were close to the services needed by seniors. Monroe County has many talented entrepreneurs, successful business owners, and responsible public servants who could help with those tasks.
Additionally, the county must implement transparent and responsive budgeting practices, in order to protect taxpayers from increasing taxes and/or charge-backs that serve as effective tax increases.
Finally, aging in place is an issue that is not unique to Monroe County, and there are countless organizations and localities developing solutions. The county needs to engage in a comprehensive assessment to better understand existing gaps and determine where best practices can be applied in our community.
First, it would be wise to determine the exact nature of the problem and ensure those people who qualify for subsidies receive them. Once the scope of the problem is identified, if the county is unable to provide the childcare subsidies to all eligible families, it must come up with creative solutions to protect our most vulnerable children.
Public/private partnerships are one such solution. For instance, the YMCA has extended day programs in schools that work well for the families participating. I would suggest partnering with organizations like that and exploring ways the county can expand those services to reach underserved families.
An additional solution would be to encourage more organizations to address child care issues for their employees. The county should seek out best practices of organizations providing that service or businesses providing that benefit for their employees to see how those approaches can be applied here.
Manager, Revenue Integrity Operations and Medical Coding, University of Rochester
As a County Legislator, I plan on supporting economic development efforts in order to create and retain good paying jobs for Monroe County residents. I also support keeping the property tax rate flat while maintaining the superior quality of life services that are offered in Monroe County.
In my career, I find ways to streamline healthcare and minimize unnecessary spending on a daily basis. I plan on bringing these skills and my experience to the County Legislature. Monroe County offers a vast array of services to the public. While these services must be maintained and fostered, I will seek ways to streamline government by continuing to find ways to share services between the County, Towns, Villages and School Districts.
The most crucial piece to allow Monroe County’s older population to stay in their homes is to continue to keep the county property tax rate stable. By continuing to do this, the aging population will be able to accurately budget the costs of their home.
Meeting the needs of all families in our community is of the utmost importance to me. As a father of two children, I understand the challenges of balancing a budget in a household. When looking at the state allocation for childcare subsidies, it is clear that Monroe County is not receiving our fair share. I will advocate to the State Legislature that Monroe County’s allocation increases to ensure that all families who are in need of childcare subsidies have access.