Yates leads in key areas, but funding for parks, recreation, and culture is too low

How far has Yates County come over the past 10 to 15 years, and what actions should be taken to enhance the community? Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center, points to some favorable trends in the county’s overall picture, but he also acknowledges some areas that don’t look quite so favorable are detailed in the recent Yates County Report Card, compiled by ACTRochester.org.

In a report to the Yates County Legislature on June 12, Griffin said at 25 percent job growth from 2000 to 2015, Yates County leads the region, and fares better than the state and national averages. While the state and region have both seen declines of more than 30 percent in manufacturing job growth, Yates has seen an increase of 23 percent. 

Yates County boasts the top per capita tourism revenue, and it occupies the number one spot in the region for median income change and median home value increase.

At the same time, an annual report card compiled by ACTRochester.org, shows little Yates lagging in some areas.

Griffin says looking at statistics while understanding other elements that make Yates County unique — the growing Mennonite community, and the number of successful small businesses, for example — will help clarify the true picture. That’s why he is searching for a contractor that can complete a more focused study of Yates County. It’s also why he’s encouraging the Yates County Legislators to make investments in things that improve the quality of life in Yates County.

Griffin made a case for more local investment in parks, recreation, and culture. “We have to start investing in the community, not just the areas the state and federal governments tell us,” he said.

According to the ACTRochester report, in 2015, tourism revenue in Yates, at $2,628 per person, was more than double the regional figure ($1,290) and well above every other county in the region. Yates’ revenue per person rose by 81 percent from 2005 to 2015.

In contrast, recreational spending was low in Yates ($25 per resident) compared to the state ($331) and region ($70), and was only slightly up from the rate in 2005. 

Griffin says the recreational spending figures do not include winery and wine trail events, but capture spending on recreational attractions such as amusement parks, theaters, museums, and parks. 

Yates County Report Card highlights

The Yates County Report Card aggregates data from more than 100 community indicators to provide a quick, at-a-glance overview of the well-being of the county. This data cover the topics of Arts, Culture and Leisure, Children and Youth, Community Engagement, Economy, Education, Financial Self-Sufficiency, Health, Housing, and Public Safety. Other counties in the region are Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, and Seneca. 

Highlights of the Yates County findings in the ACTRochester.org annual county report card released in April included:

• Yates is the least diverse county in the Finger Lakes Region  with a population that is 97 percent white. But there has been growth in its small Asian, African-American, and Hispanic populations. At the same time, Yates has one of the highest child poverty rates in the region.

• Yates had a rate of child abuse and neglect in 2015 that was far above the region and state: Yates’ rate of 36 substantiated cases per 1,000 children in 2015 was more than double the state (14) and regional (16) rates, and higher than every county in the region besides Seneca. The rate has increased 127 percent from 2000 when it was 16, in sharp contrast to a 3 percent increase in the state and 11 percent in the region.

• The voter registration rate in Yates County was below the state, region, and most other counties in the region. In 2015, 72 percent of eligible Yates adults were registered to vote, below the state (75 percent) and regional figures (78 percent). Yates’ rate fell by 15 points from 2000, a far greater decrease than for the state and region (both down 4 points over that period).

• Yates has the second lowest unemployment rate in the region: In 2015, the unemployment rate in Yates was 5.0 percent, below the nation and state (both 5.3 percent), region (5.2 percent), and every regional county besides Ontario and Genesee.

• Yates was the only county in which median household income remained unchanged from 2000, and in 2011-15, 14 percent of Yates residents were below the poverty line. But in 2015, 1.0 percent of  Yates residents received assistance, versus 2.9 percent for the state and 3.1 percent for the region. Yates had the lowest rate among regional counties besides Wyoming and Genesee.

Also:

• Yates has a higher rate of uninsured than the state and region

• Home values in Yates rose more than any other county in the region, and Yates was more affordable for renters relative to the region than homeowners

• Yates had the lowest violent crime rate in the region, at 10 per 10,000, residents. This was well below the state (38), nation (37), and region (27), and was a decrease of 5 percent from 2000.

• Yates had a similarly low property crime rate – 109 per 10,000 – in large contrast to the nation (249), state (159), and region (204). Yates’ rate fell by 16 percent from 2000 to 2015.

To see the entire report, visit www.actrochester.org/Yates

Griffin offered some details he had recently found in his own research:

• In Philadelphia, Pa., property tax revenue increased due to parks enhancing the value of nearby properties after city investments in recreation and culture, according to a 2007 Park Impact Study by the Trust for Public Land. That study also concluded increased tax receipts from spending by tourists, and savings due to reduced stormwater treatment costs.

• In Chattanooga, Tenn., a plan to lure middle-class residents back to the city in the mid-1980s included the creation of parks and trails. As a result, property values rose by more than 127.5 percent, according to the American Planning Association.