NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The New Rochelle City Council voted tonight in a 5-2 party line to approve a $153.5 million budget for 2013 . Republicans Lou Trangucci (District 1) and Al Tarantino (District 2) voted against the budget citing the failure to adopt any product spending reductions to lower the tax rate. The budget will require a 6.99% tax increase. Two controversial cuts to the budget, a $300,000 reduction in overtime for the fire department and a $250,000 reduction in the sanitation budget for loose leaf pick up, were added back to the budget.
Council Members Shari Rackman (District 6) and Lou Trangucci proposed restoring the fire department overtime, a proposal that was supported by all members of Council except Mayor Noam Bramson who voted "no".
Council Members Barry Fertel (District 5) and Trangucci proposed restoring the Leaf Pick-up.
In a bitter exchange, following a testy executive session, Bramson, a Democrat demanded to know how Trangucci, a Republican, proposed to find money elsewhere in the budget to add back funding for the fire department overtime and leaf pick-up. When Trangucci responded by pointing out that he had also proposed the reduction or elimination of other spending items, Bramson was dismissive. Bramson claimed that summing up all of Trangucci's cuts and increases still left a $200,000 hole. Trangucci challenged the Mayor's arithmetic skills, pointing out that net difference was $100,000 or half of what Bramson claimed. Bramson then admitted he had failed to count Trangucci's proposed to eliminate the position of Deputy DPW Commissioner Position which pays $93,750 plus benefits.
Bramson made no similar demands on Rackman, who also proposed restoring the fire department overtime, or Fertel, who had proposed restoring leaf pick up. Ivar Hyden made three budget proposals, all increases and spending and was not challenged by Bramson. Jared Rice made one proposal that would increase spending by $175,000. Rice was also not asked to offset his proposed spending increase.
Every spending increase proposed by Rackman, Fertel, Ivar Hyden (District 4) and Jared Rice (District 3) was added into the Budget. None of the spending reductions proposed by Trangucci were taken out of the budget.
The total additions to the budget are $935,000. They will be funded by increased fees and raising the City's rainy day funds. $500,000 was taken from the Contingency Budget and $150,000 was taken from the Fund Balance. Marina Fees will be increased to generate $125,000, Tennis Fees will be raised to generate $10,000 and Health Insurance Savings will generate $150,000.
While casting their votes on the budget, each member of Council made a brief comment
Lou Trangucci voted "no", noting that all of his proposed spending reductions had been rejected.
Al Tarantino voted "no", echoing Trangucci's concerns and noting that every spending increase had been approved.
Jared Rice voted "yes", calling the budget part of the "new normal", noting that core services had been protected, there were no layoffs, the fire department overtime and leaf removal had been restored and that key investments had been made.
Ivar Hyden voted "yes", commending the Citizens Budget committee, criticizing unfunded state mandates which he says forced the City to go over the tax cap and calling on residents to complaint to their state representatives.
Shari Rackman voted "yes", commending the Citizens Budget committee.
Barry Fertel voted "yes", expressing concerns about the psychological burden placed on Council Members by Governor Cuomo's tax levy cap. Fertel took a shot at the Republicans saying "it's easy to vote no when you don't get what you want."
Mayor Noam Bramson voted "yes".
Firefighters on hand for the vote came away pleased with the restoration of overtime sufficient to keep manning levels at 27 per shift.
Calling it a responsible budget, UFFA Local 273 President Byron Gray questioned what has become an annual ritual in his four years as union head.
"Since I've been in my position, we've borne the brunt of the budget cutting," said Gray.
The union was particularly unhappy with the approval of $175,000 for a "fire study".
Gray recalled past studies which did not support cutting the fire department, that they were either buried or adopted but ignored.
"We have 200 years of experience running the department," said Gray. "Why are they ignoring that?"
UFFA Local 273 Treasure Peter Miley questioned why the fire department was being singled out for a $175,000 study.
"Rather than focus on the fire department," said Miley. "Why not look at the whole city?"
$175,000 could pay for three firefighters for a year.
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