This is one of those topics that is sure to be controversial so I wanted to make sure that I provided an overview of the current situation. Really we have 3 options; 1) Ignore the problem 2) Raise property taxes to cover needs 3) Use fees to cover needs Sidewalks are a pretty basic and needed city service.
While we have been doing #1 for as long as I have been on the council, I don’t accept that this is responsible. Between #2 & #3 I think that #3 is more equitable and more effective in the long run. I lean towards doing this because I have many kids, seniors, and disabled constituents in the city that deserve safer walking routes.
As a side note if you really want to prank someone, get some pink chalk and mark up their sidewalks right after they have a bunch of panels replaced. I had one person that directed some profanity at me personally after getting assessed. I used some chalk a few months later… After he calmed down, he acknowledged I got him pretty good. We called it even at that point.
- Improved Public Safety.
- Small stable fee, property owners never get large unexpected bill.
- Reduces disproportionate property taxes downtown and other high value commercial properties are paying.
- Funds sidewalk replacements.
- Funds ADA Transition Plan prevent lawsuit potential.
- Funds tree preservation for large mature trees.
- Funds maintenance of existing and future trails along major roads.
- Partially funds expansion of sidewalk systems to underserved areas especially be schools & transit.
- Significantly less staff time required to administer.
- Able to allocate in a much fairer manner than property taxes.
- Shared among all properties including the many properties that don’t pay taxes.
- New monthly fee (likely property tax statement possibly $6 per month range).
- People who recently paid to replace sidewalks panels are hit twice.
- For 1/3 taxpayers itemizing; slight reduction in deductions relative to property taxes (we are not 100% certain on this, businesses could likely still deduct).
Currently we have substantial sidewalk needs that are going unfunded. Like much of Rochester, unsustainable sprawl has left us with more infrastructure than we have resources to maintain. If you think this is painful just wait until you see how streets are going to blow up city finances. (Hint we are more than $1 BILLION in the hole and digging it deeper every month). Currently we need about $3.6 million annually to meet sidewalk needs, we are only putting $350k per year into these items. $250k from property taxes & $100k from assessments. Here is where the money would go.
- Sidewalk Defect Repair Program $1.4M
- ADA Transition Plan $1.3M
- Tree Preservation Related to Sidewalks $150k
- Bituminous Sidewalk/Right of Way Trail Preservation $528k
- Priority Gap Fill in Sidewalk System $225k
Even if we go this route there is still a ton of details to work out like who which type of properties pay how much. Maybe we give a small rebate to people that have paid for panels in the last couple years. We could also start by covering 50% of needs and step it up over time.
Here is the city presentation.