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Report highlights city's obstacles due to poverty, demographics

Rochester Business Journal
March 4, 2013

With 25.8 percent of Rochester households living in poverty—the highest rate in the state—and its population declining 37 percent since 1950, the city must solve serious fiscal obstacles in the coming years, a state report released Monday says.

“The financial and demographic challenges facing Rochester are not unique, but they are some of the most significant in the state,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement.

“Clearly, urban centers like Rochester will need help to overcome a number of social and economic hurdles. Rochester has taken a number of positive steps to put itself on stronger fiscal footing, but faces ongoing challenges.”

Cities with high concentrations of poverty require higher levels of service needs, Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards said, in response to the report.

“Comptroller DiNapoli's report acknowledges that Rochester's poverty rates are among the highest in the state and the country,” Richards said. “Rochester may not be the poorest city, but our concentration of poverty is significant.”

The city’s revenues grew at an average rate of 3.6 percent from 2001 to 2011, the report from the Office of the State Comptroller says, higher than the statewide average of 3.4 percent for other cities. Its average growth in expenditures was 3.7 percent, compared with 3.4 percent for other cities.

Rochester’s unemployment of 9.8 percent is higher than the state average of 7.9 percent, the report says.

The city has exhausted 61 percent of its constitutional debt limit and 75 percent of its constitutional tax limit, the report says. Both are the highest among the state’s four largest cities, including New York City, Buffalo and Syracuse, it says.

In addition, Rochester receives less AIM, or Aid and Incentives to Municipalities, per capita than the three other large cities. It receives $419 per capita, with the three other major cities receiving an average of $566 per capita.

Rochester’s property values increased by an average of 1.9 percent annually from 2001 to 2011; its median home value of $73,600 compared with $96,000 in the other cities, the report says.

Sales taxes account for 26 percent of Rochester’s total revenue, compared with 19 percent in the other cities, the report says.

The report repeats what Rochester officials have been saying for years, Richards said, “that we are doing as well as we can but we are struggling to keep up financially.”

(c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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