Tax cap architect raps override vote, worries it could become an annual event

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Fred Leonard (Rochester Voice file photo)

ROCHESTER - The architect of Rochester Tax Cap referendum of 2008 said on Friday it was as much about forcing the city to change "how it manages its business" as it was to protect property owners from skyrocketing tax rates.

Fred Leonard, a former state rep and mayoral candidate, said on Friday he was bitterly disappointed that the tax cap was overridden on Tuesday by a 9-4 vote.

The $1.7 million override required a two/third majority vote of the City Council, which it got when Dave Walker, ironically one of the original signers of the tax cap referendum 10 years ago, switched his vote.

"This will be an annual thing now," Leonard said. "It will be interesting to see what they do next year."

The $1.7 million override was part of a an overall $132 million city and schools budget for fiscal year 2018-19 which begins July 1.

The schools portion of the budget is what took spending over the tax cap limit, and Leonard says it shows that school officials have made no effort toward a more frugal approach.

"We have eight elementary schools in the city, and three or four of them have less than 100 students," he said. "Each one of those schools has a principal. If we could have consolidated and dropped a couple of schools we could save $2 million a year."

Leonard also said the override was put into the tax cap provision to provide the city with a safety net in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.

"This was not an emergency, this was not a natural disaster," he fumed. "They had 10 years to learn how to do business differently."

Now Leonard feels that the tax cap override vote could become an annual rite of spring at City Hall.

"I'm disappointed, but I saw this coming," he said.

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