December 22, 2011
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Honorable Governor Cuomo,
I contact you as 56-year old New Rochellian who had to move from my city of birth due to high taxes. I am now faced with the task of maintaining our New Rochelle family home in hopes of keeping my 80-year-old mother-in-law, who suffers from dementia, in familiar surroundings until her time comes.
Many years ago New Rochelle was facing a 30% tax increase and then Mayor Tim Idoni consulted with then Assemblyman Ronald Tocci to institute legislation whereby New Rochelle received and extra 1% sales tax in exchange for the Tocci Tax-Cap which limited property tax increases to the Consumer Price Index. The extra 1% in sales tax increased New Rochelle’s coffers by $9 MILLION per year on average over its lifetime. Out of control spending and multi-decade property tax breaks to wealthy developers exhausted the extra sales tax revenue so the City Manager, with council approval, instituted a refuse (garbage) FEE. This FEE skirted the tax-cap and allowed the city to collect large increases within in the tax-cap. This fee is regressive and is NOT deductible when filing taxes. The original refuse fee was $165 per living unit; a one-family home paid $165, a two-family $330 and so on. Assemblyman George Latimer proposed and the State Legislature passed legislation abolishing the Tocci Tax-Cap and allowing New Rochelle to keep the extra 1% sales tax. At that time the City Council vowed to abolish the refuse fee over a 5-year period. Needless to say it was never abolished but it was reduced to its current $63 per unit charge.
Fast forward to the Cuomo Tax-Cap; most claim it is flawed because there is no mandate relief but I do not concur in that your Tax-Cap exempts pension and health insurance costs. Hold on to your hat; New Rochelle City Manager Charles Strome released his proposed 2012 budget, which legally adheres to your Tax-Cap while INCREASING THE REFUSE FEE TO $223 per unit, a 238% increase over the current $63 fee. This is onerous to say the least. The city tax increase on an average home assessed at $18,000 would be about $120 per year under your Tax-Cap (3.68% increase). Adding insult to injury, New Rochelle homeowners would add $223 for the refuse fee totaling a City tax increase of $343 for a one family home. City taxes comprise 17% of New Rochelle’s overall tax bill with the County at 17%, School District at 66% including a New Library tax. I apologize, I forgot to mention that along with the refuse fee the City Council removed library funding from the City Charter and created a new Library Tax to circumvent the Tocci Tax-Cap.
As you can see, New York State may be the most dysfunction state in the country but by far New Rochelle is the most dysfunctional small city in the country when it comes to oppressive taxation. Is it any wonder most of my friends have moved out of Westchester County or New York State?
Most people deduct the refuse fee as a tax and that is lost money to the state. I hope you can contact the elected officials in New Rochelle, namely Mayor Noam Bramson and the City Council, to ask them to reconsider this approach. The council is made up of a 4-3 majority of democrats with a 5-2 super majority to take office on January 1, 2012. At the very least, I hope you will convey that tax returns from New Rochelle will be scrutinized if the $223 refuse fee is adopted thereby outraging the citizenry to speak out and denounce this unfair practice.
At the end of the day, fellow democrats have found a way to circumvent your tax-cap while the citizens of New Rochelle receive a 238% refuse fee increase with no increased refuse services. In reality, the New Rochelle administration bypassed your tax-cap to shore up other areas of their budget. They chose to terminate firefighters before terminating a publicist or a sustainability coordinator which was avoided by less than projected health costs. This is pure politics as the Mayor and council should have had the guts to break the cap and raise taxes 15% to allow full deduction. I don’t know if there are any legal ramifications but I would appreciate it if you could direct the Attorney General to investigate the 238% refuse fee increase without a corresponding increase in refuse services.
Hoping you can help,
Anthony Galletta 241A Heritage Hills Somers, NY 10589-1409 914-669-5154 Home 914-497-9141 Cell
Cc: Honorable Amy Paulin, Honorable George Latimer, Honorable Jeffrey Klein, Honorable Suzi Oppenheimer