City of Rochester working to identify ways to support fire, police in 2024 budget

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(ABC 6 News) – The City of Rochester is in the middle of putting together its proposed budget for 2024 and there are many increases to this year’s budget, including a hike in the projected tax levy.

A tax levy is essentially a calculation of how much a city, or other jurisdiction, needs to collect via property taxes to properly fund its operations. It’s not the only way a city funds those operations, but it’s an essential part of how cities across the U.S. pay for the projects and programs earmarked in their budget.

Rochester’s proposed 2024 budget is currently projected at $574.5 million and the local tax levy could be going up more than three percent from 6.85% to 9.44%. One big area the council members are considering for next year’s budget is how to help support and grow the fire department.

Every city department in Rochester is hoping to give raises to their employees and that money would come from the tax levy.

“We have growth and then some of that will mitigate the impact. Our tax rate is projected to be fairly stable so that’s also a good insight of the growth,” said Aaron Parrish, Deputy City Administrator of Rochester.

The Rochester Fire Department is not only trying to retain staff but expand upon it too.

“The fire department does have a piece for the proposed budget,” said Holl Mulholland, deputy chief of the Rochester Fire Department. “Potentially in the proposed budget for an assistant chief. It is the first step to our eight-step plan for the EMS division, the Emergency Medical Services division.”

Response times in Northwest Rochester are the slowest and additional eyes and ears in leadership at RFD would help them get to those calls quicker.

“It’s really step one to a bigger idea of how do we serve the northwest. How do we respond to our changing call volume to our emergency medical services which have gone up significantly,” said Parrish.

Another step is funding services for organizational health and wellness for city employees.

“We really want to make sure that our first responders are well supported. We have been piloting a chaplaincy program for police and fire. That is something we’re going to recommend, you know, in the proposed budget does have funding to continue that,” said Parrish.

The proposed non-denominational chaplaincy program would be a resource for employees who need help handling a tough situation on the job. Another focus for the 2024 budget for the fire department; is a new EMS division.

“It’s an entirely new division. So we have a training division, a fleet operation, and an operations division. Their primary responsibility would be responding to emergency medical service calls and lift assist,” said Mulholland.

While there’s a lot to consider, the city council needs to make decisions on the entire budget, and how to spend that $574 million. The next study session the city council will be hosting for the 2024 budget proposals is on Monday, September 11.