Press Releases
Press Office
(518) 474-4015


March 4, 2013

DiNapoli: Rochester Faces Serious Fiscal and
Demographic Challenges

City Well Managed and Attempting to Tackle Issues

The city of Rochester, hampered by increasing budget gaps and the highest percentage of families living in poverty of any city in New York, is expected to face heightened fiscal stress in coming years, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The city’s revenues have grown at a higher rate than other cities, giving it some flexibility that other cities do not have. The report is the latest in a series of fiscal profiles DiNapoli will issue on cities across the state.

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

The third-largest city in the state, Rochester is part of New York’s “Big Four” cities along with Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers (cities outside of New York City with dependent school districts). DiNapoli’s report found that Rochester ranks higher than its counterparts in terms of poverty and debt.

Currently, Rochester has the highest rate of families living in poverty in New York at 25.8 percent and the city’s unemployment rate (9.8 percent) is significantly higher than the state average (7.9 percent).

Additionally, the city has exhausted 61 percent of its constitutional debt limit and 75 percent of its constitutional tax limit, both the highest of the Big Four cities. Debt issued for school district purposes, however, represents a significant burden. As a result, the city and school district recently set up a Joint School Construction Board, currently authorized to undertake $325 million in building projects to renovate schools.

Rochester also receives less in state Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM), per capita, than the other Big Four cities. According to the most recent data, the city receives $419 per capita in AIM funds, while the other Big Four cities receive $566 per capita on average.

The city’s revenues grew at an average annual rate of 3.6 percent from 2001 to 2011, compared to an average growth rate of 3.4 percent for all cities in the state. The city’s expenditures grew at an annual average of 3.7 over this same 10 year time period, compared to 3.4 percent for all cities.

These factors have created significant budget gaps that the city expects to persist through the 2017-18 fiscal year. City officials estimated they began the 2012-13 fiscal year with a $40 million shortfall.

Other findings in DiNapoli’s report include:

  • The city’s population has declined 37 percent since 1950;
  • Property values in the city increased at an average annual rate of 1.9 percent from 2001 through 2011;
  • The median home value in Rochester is $73,600 compared to the median of $96,000 for all cities;
  • Rochester relies more heavily on sales taxes (26 percent of all revenue) than all cities (19 percent); and
  • The dependent Rochester City School District receives $119 million in property tax revenue from the city.

In the coming months, DiNapoli will issue fiscal profiles on select cities across the state to further inform officials and citizens on some of the unique environmental and systemic pressures facing New York’s cities. As part of this effort, DiNapoli will also release in-depth reports on some of the issues that contribute to the financial pressures on local governments.

DiNapoli’s office recently finalized details of a new fiscal monitoring system that will calculate and publicize an overall score of fiscal stress for municipalities and school districts across the state. The ‘early warning’ system will identify those headed toward fiscal crisis and give local officials and the public greater opportunity to consider options for turning things around.

For a copy of the Rochester fiscal profile report visit:



Albany Phone: (518) 474-4015 Fax: (518) 473-8940
NYC Phone: (212) 383-1388 Fax: (212) 681-7677
Follow us on Twitter: @NYSComptroller
Like us on Facebook: