ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The 2020-2021 Rochester City budget passed Tuesday night 8 to 1, with only City Council member Mary Lupien voting no.

Tuesday’s meeting started with hearing from the public. Many of the comments called to put limits on funding the police.

“I support the defunding of police and reinvestment in communities,” said resident AJ Durwin. 

That defunding and reinvesting looks something like this: 

  • Cuts $3.6 million of RPD Budget, or 3.7%
  • On top of the the $3.6 million, additional funds will be reallocated from special events that use RPD: $130,000 will allow for two community city managers
  • Furthermore, the budget cuts the incoming Rochester police class by 50%, saving $750,000, given to contingency fund
  • Fully funds the Police Accountability Board
  • Removes police officers from RCSD schools

Police Chief La’Ron Singletary said Tuesday cutting funds from the RPD means black and brown communities will be negatively affected. He says Rochester has already implemented reforms across the department, like banning chokeholds and using body cameras, but there’s still work to be done.

“We have and will continue to look inward at changes to our operating practices, improve transparency, accountability and overall relationship with the community we serve,” says Chief Singletary.

Stanley Martin, an organizer with Black Lives Matter, says cutting back $3.6 million from the RPD isn’t enough, and wants to see more put back into the community. “We believe that police make neighborhoods more dangerous and they perpetuate harm and violence,” she says.

The Project Review Committee is due to meet Wednesday. 

Lupien, who voted no on the amended budget issued the following statement Tuesday:

“I’m disappointed that the budget passed fails to invest meaningfully in our communities and shift resources away from policing. Removing SROs and a 4% cut for RPD is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. Our police budget is $95 million. Add in their pensions (which get padded by up to $56k extra in overtime in their last 3 years), and we spend more on the police than we do on our schools, libraries and youth services combined. This budget does not reflect a firm and bold commitment to reimagine and transform public safety.

This budget does not increase investment in our schools, housing, libraries, workforce development, or youth services –the things proven time and again to fundamentally improve not only the quality of life of our residents but actually reduce crime. In the past week, I’ve received over close to 1000 messages and had nearly 200 people attend a virtual town hall I hosted on policing. There’s a growing call from constituents and community members to divest from policing and invest in programs and services that build safer communities.

I’m in awe of the powerful and passionate leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement. We must follow their lead and continue to advocate for a 50% reduction in the police budget, so that the Joint Commission on Racial Equity in Policing and Beyond delivers on the bold, transformational change we want to see. The solution to building safer and more vibrant neighborhoods is investing in them and people who live in them.”

Chief of Staff for City Council BJ Scanlon issued this statement Tuesday:

“At tonight’s Council Meeting, the Rochester City Council amended and passed the City of Rochester’s FY 2020-21 Budget, in a vote of 8-1 with Councilmember Mary Lupien voting in opposition. The Budget amendments transfer funds to be used for police overtime related to Special Events into the Bureau of Recreation. This will mitigate personnel impacts previously proposed and maintain a defined career ladder for our Recreation staff. Additionally, the Council amended the Rochester Police Department Budget, reducing the incoming police recruit class by 50% and transferring $750,000 resulting from this reduction to Contingency. 

These funds will be set aside to support the work of a Task Force put together by the Administration that will look to re-imagine policing in our community. The Council voted in opposition to the Rochester City School District FY 2020-21 Budget. The Council voted 1-7-1 with Councilmember Malik Evans voting in favor and Councilmember LaShay Harris abstaining from the vote as an employee of the District. According to the City Charter, if the City Council does not approve the School District Budget, the version as submitted to the Mayor and Council will become the District’s Budget for the ensuing fiscal year.”