ACT Rochester recently released its 2017 Community Report Card for the Greater Rochester region.
“In addition to the data update, this report describes the efforts of six initiatives that are aligning ACT Rochester and Rochester Area Community Foundation’s work and coordinating their programs to combat poverty in Greater Rochester,” said Ann Johnson, director of ACT Rochester. “These initiatives involve hundreds of residents, including those in poverty, collaborating as professionals and volunteers. We are working together.”
Johnson said only two of 18 grades changed since 2016 in the nine-county Regional Report Card. Health, which previously performed better than the state, is now worse by more than 10 percent. The three indicators driving the change are mortality, gonorrhea and AIDS.
Two new library indicators — library visits and registered borrowers — were added to the community engagement topic area of the ACT Rochester website. The positive performance of these measures resulted in this overall topic performing better than the state.
“Adding library indicators to our communities’ data report card is an effective way to remind leaders in the Rochester region that our libraries are some of the best in the state, and that community members are, indeed, still using libraries frequently,” said Patricia Uttaro, director of the Monroe County Library System and Rochester Public Library.
Community libraries have evolved into much more than a place to just borrow books. They provide online access, free or low-cost children’s programming and community gathering spaces. Data on library visits and borrowers was provided by the New York State Education Department from the Monroe County, Pioneer, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Nioga public library systems.
The report card highlights focused on one new and several critical indicators, including library visits, dance and theater attendance, change in average salary and violent crimes.
In the region, there were 6.2 library visits per person, which was higher than the statewide rate of 5.3. The city of Rochester had 1.7 million total visits in 2015 and the highest rate per person at 8.1.
People heading to local arts and cultural attractions rose in 2015. Dance and theater attendance grew 22 percent, rebounding to pre-2008 recession levels.
The total average salary in the region has increased 4.5 percent between 2000-15, higher than any other year since 2001 by at least three points. This compares to growth of 9.1 percent in the state and 8.9 percent in the nation. Monroe County experienced a 1.1 percent increase in average salary, the lowest of the nine counties. The largest increases were in Seneca County at 18 percent and Ontario at 31 percent.
The region’s rate of violent crimes increased 19 percent from 2000-15, while the city of Rochester had an 18 percent increase. There were five years in this timeframe when Rochester’s violent crimes were lower than they are today. The rate for 2015 was 88 per 10,000 residents, with a low of 74 and a high of 128 during the 16-year period. Included in the violent crimes measure are murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
“There is nothing as powerful as data placed in the context of a story,” said Tom Argust, chairman of the ACT Rochester Advisory Committee. “ACT Rochester data, coupled with a clearly stated and compelling story, brings poverty and racial disparities out of hiding in such a way that these issues cannot be ignored any longer.”
The Community Report Card is an aggregation of data from more than 100 community indicators for Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties. Data points cover the topics of arts, culture and leisure, children and youth, community engagement, economy, education, financial self-sufficiency, health, housing and public safety.
Overall, the report card shows that the region is doing as well or better than New York state in five of nine areas: children, community engagement, economy, education and housing. The region is performing slightly worse than the state in financial self-sufficiency. Areas in which the region trails the state by 10 percent or more include the arts, health and public safety.
ACT Rochester also compiled report cards for each county, which are available online.
For information, visit actrochester.org.