Open Letter to City Council RE: 2013 Budget

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Open Letter to City Council RE: 2013 Budget

November 19, 2012 - 17:05

Over the past 15 years I have been employed in both the finance sector on Wall Street and as a Finance Director at a Fortune 40 Corporation. At present, I serve as the CFO of a Westchester-based non-profit. Academically, I have multiple graduate degrees—in financial economics, public administration and American history. I mention this because it is relevant on two fronts. Firstly, I am both educated and extensively experienced to the nuances of large-scale budgeting, general management (both private and public) and the policies that impact them. Secondly, I am the paradigm resident who bears much of the burden of the New Rochelle budgeting process. While I enjoy very much hearing about how national and local politicians are constantly "working for the middle class," I write this letter as an established middle-class member. As such, I am demanding that the City Council execute the following initiatives so as to truly “work” for us.

1) Vote down proposed 2013 service cuts—specifically curbside leaf pickup.

2) Publicly remand and striking from the record of inflammatory September 2012 comments made by the Citizens’ Panel for Sustainable Budgets regarding residents’ acceptance of taxes and decreased services as serving some “higher public purpose.”


Since I have moved to New Rochelle, my tax bill has increased approximately 100%. That equates to more than 10% on a compounded annual basis, including all state and local taxes. Over the last 2 years, my New Rochelle taxes have increased in the mid double digits—likely close to 20% (excluding the impact of proposed 2013 budgets).

Having been in business for over 15 years, I can tell you that NO industry has been fortunate enough to realize this type of pricing increase (except, interestingly, those utilities enabled by government). Those that have been forced to take such increases are generally mismanaged, and are eventually washed out of whatever industry they were apportioned to. The government, however, seems immune to this Darwinism. I truly feel saddened for modern politicians, however, because following Hurricane Sandy it is obvious that the days of avoiding hard questions are seemingly over.

Residents are obviously and regularly exposed to the standard local political arguments regarding residential taxes: the "City doesn't control" all of these taxable items. For those making that defense, I beg to differ. The fact remains that the City clearly retains discretion over key drivers, including cost structuring, real estate levies, schools and sewers. While its recent report seems to indicate the City drives only 20% of the overall tax bill, again many of the other items and off-sheet fees / taxes remain under City jurisdiction. As such, the City retains unique power to optimize its own operations. Further, the City seems always at the ready to impose "backdoor" taxes—including last year's garbage increase and 2013's leaf pickup discontinuance—to tailor financial levies outside of the tax base. All of these issues come to bear in a seemingly mundane issue—curbside leaf pickup.

Curbside Leaf Pickup

Sanitation is a basic service, generally provided by the government. In cases where the government chooses to exit this service, private options generally fill the vacuum so residents can continue in a choiceful manner. In New Rochelle, however, the City holds the unique (and fortunate) disposition of having a closed audience in its residents. For instance, in cases where the City needs more revenues, it imposes backdoor taxes in the forms of increasing garbage pickup fees from $66 to $223 per annum. As such, 2012 saw a price increase of 238%! (By the way, if anyone knows any business that has ever sustainably taken such an increase, please let me know as I’d like to invest in them). When that increase is blended with the base taxes, the average taxpayer assumed an overall 15% City tax increase! With really no say in the matter, residents were walloped by this absurd fee. But the beat doesn’t end there…

As proposed for 2013, residents will now be forced to bag leaves. While other municipalities have attempted and failed to do this, New Rochelle seems to enjoy blazing the trail on such punitive issues. While many think this is a trifle—so easily handled by those "wealthy" residents lucky enough to have some trees on their property—I recognize this as something else.

While this service cut clearly represents another backdoor increase, it is also an unquestionable shirking of municipal responsibility within the City’s existing construct. Contrary to the deluded Citizens’ Panel for Sustainable Budgets indicating that ending curbside leaf pickup would improve street safety, it is obvious to anyone who lives near a tree that curbside leaf pickup does the exact opposite—rendering our streets, highways and sewers safe and operational. Further, the idea that residents have a comparative advantage to handle sheer leaf volume of a generally wooded area belies the army of City trucks, manpower and expertise already devoted towards it.

Ultimately, this service cut will drive up residential costs (coincidentally, outside of the auspices of the base tax increase) and also pose a vital sanitation and public safety issue—especially considering New Rochelle’s abysmal record of flood response (which could be the topic of another letter, altogether). Only a reasonable mind would approach such an action with the promise of generating some enormous savings. Again, New Rochelle never fails to defy logic.

Amazingly, $250,000 potential savings represents less than 0.2% of the City’s budget. As someone who has managed budgets 3 times the size of the City’s, I can tell you that such a proposal reeks of myopic financial analysis and overall short sightedness. The fact that this proposal even saw the light of day costs more in money, time and energy than it is worth.

Inflammatory Statements

While I can go on regarding the strangulation of responsible City residents—as well as the questionable financial management of the City during these difficult times (e.g. proposed 2013 cuts to emergency services that again drive laughable amounts of savings)—residents have to wonder what is actually going on in City Hall. The double-talk of “difficult times” doesn’t seem to have been met with much creative solution. A detailed email I send to Mayor Bramson indicates my overall point of view regarding the Citizens’ Panel Report. All told, I (and many others) are viscerally unwilling to bear the burden and increased cost of doing more of the city's work.

Most importantly, I take real offense to the idea purveyed on page 23 indicating that acceptance of this mismanagement is somehow linked to “higher public purpose.” That statement is patronizing to hard working residents and to American history. Actually, I will render that such a statement is actually ignorant to history, and seeks to off-put mismanagement problems to residents under the guise of public service. Such a mention is inflammatory to both current residents as well as those residents who have lived through truly difficult times—growing victory gardens and listening for air raid sirens. Members of Council, I can tell you that no air raids have recently sounded. Such a “sacrifice” simply avoids true growth and change that were so prevalent during times of real challenges.

As an ancillary point regarding the Citizen’s Panel report, I have lived (in the real world) through the economic downturn. My wife remains unemployed. Yet, as a financial professional, I can tell you undoubtedly that a key route to true change is through size reduction of underutilized personnel. I’ve lived through force reductions, and as painful as they are, there’s a reason they prevail—because they work! While I do not advocate for such actions willy-nilly, I find it laughable that the Citizens’ Panel only uncovered $300,000 of operational efficiencies at the Headquarters / overhead level. Having directly managed compensation budgets equal in size to that of the City’s, I can tell you that even after the recent reductions and natural attrition at the City’s headquarters something is clearly missing from that analysis. But I digress.


All of the chronic symptoms I mention are evident of the lack of some overall, transformational plan towards sustainability. Instead of New Rochelle planning ahead, the idiosyncratic reactivity to challenges is evident. Instead of New Rochelle putting away for a rainy day, the City comes during the rainy day and takes away the umbrella. Instead of seriously dealing with Consolidated Edison following its abysmal performance during Irene, the City sends out emails and voicemails detailing the extensive outages following Sandy (bearing such emergency costs on behalf of the taxpayer). As my dad always says, you can best evaluate one’s leadership during boom times. As I like to say, failures of history are failures of preparation. In this, the City’s 2013 budget is no different.

In closing, I can say that I am completely disenchanted with the City of New Rochelle. When I moved here in 2004, I was truly proud to say that New Rochelle was a City rich in public services, and comparable to my home borough. New Rochelle was not a second-run City. Now, I believe that I was naïve.

I feel increasingly trapped between increasing local levies, declining services and a disinterest by the City / City Council towards back-broken residents. If I were not tied to the local area by family, I would say good riddance to the burdens of this entire place, and never look back.

If I could only get out of here before the City enacts its proposed Real Estate Transfer Tax.

John Lozito has served as an executive in both the private and non-profit sector, currently as the head of finance for a local non-profit. He holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in financial economics from Fordham University and a Master's of Public Administration in Local Government from Pace University.

There are 22 Comments

Those in the Public Sector do not understand that Government produces no revenue they only use what revenue it can levy or gain via sales taxes and fee's.
Poor management-waste-featherbedding and a addiction to more and more is the norm for Democrats and our City has a one party government.
They scoff at the Governor's tax cap, they blame it mostly on the School System and cause taxation in creative manners.
Jokingly one would think we will "Pay Per Flush" soon and we know our Mayor is trying to find a way to levy a Sewer Tax.
Pay per Plow would be next.
Pay per Police occurrence and pay per Fire call is only a heartbeat away.
All of this while walking the Ceremonial vs Strong Mayor line.
The Mayor has never had a real job where you are judged by your performance. Nor has he had to make do with what he has as it is a never ending supply of money that he can levy while giving developers 40 year Tax abatement's. If you looked at the results he should have been thrown out of here years ago with Tar and Feathering.
He is now going to bond 25 million dollars rather than making the DPW location work till we have an improving economy. He will hear Yea from Fertel, Rackman, Hayden and Rice. They are not thinking only serving their master. New Rochelle is in deep trouble brought to you by Bramson.


I share your unhappiness (to put it mildly) about how some things are run in the city. However I am politely disagreeing with you on the leaf issue.

I am very much FOR the bagged leaf law, and let me explain why.

Have you seen what it takes to pick up loose leaves, especially now being contaminated with loads of wood? It is the biggest waste of man power, machinery, fuel and causes huge amount of damage to roadways and curbs due to heavy equipment usage. Bagged leaves are much much easier to pick up, less likely to be contaminated and can be picked up by regular dumptrucks that can densify them to make the trip to the leaf transfer station worth the while.

You wouldn't advocate for putting your trash out loosely either. It has been successfully implemented in other communities and saves a lot of money.

However, what is even better and costs even less money is instead of blowing leaves together and treating them as trash by carting them first to the transfer station, and then to a large municipal organic waste facility outside of Westchester Ct, paying 44$ per ton tipping fee (in addition to the fuel, equipment and man power it takes to truck the stuff up there), we should mulch mow the leaves and leave them on the lawn.

Leaves are Mother Nature's way of returning necessary carbon to the soil, and here we go and blow it all away. For more information, go to

All it takes for the landscapers to have a special mulching blade on their mower and then just mow the lawn as they do during grass growing season. The leaves are being finely chopped up and fall back onto the grass, protecting it, giving back their nutrients and -voila- no need to bag or pick anything up anymore.

This program is gaining huge traction because it makes all the sense in the world.

I disagree with you about bagging leaves. You have forgotten about the citizens who do not have landscapers. What about the costs of the bags? Will there be a weight and size issue? What happens if the bags break? Who will be responsible for the clean up? What about the cost of the special mulching blade and will it be necessary to use more fuel for this mower? Perhaps you should set your sight on Pinebrook Blvd. and the number of leaves, etc. that have washed down into the lake. This is a total disgrace.

Also, who do you know that you have been able to visit the city yard.

to the City Yard. Incredible, ain't it? She is lying about the City Yard. Also, has anyone yet banned her from harassing the school children? If the parents haven't, they are idiots and fools.

Of course she is wrong about the bagging of leaves. In addition to everything you noted, don't forget about the effect of rain on the bags, which benefit only Home Depot.

More importantly, this is a boondoggle, a three card monty put on the table by IdoniII and his henchmen. They are no more interested in passing this than they are the man in the moon.

HowEVER, while everyone else is focused on this non-issue (it will fail, trust me), Idoni II and his henchmen will get bigger, more insidious plans to pass.

I wouldn't put it past Idoni II to have Nick's cabaret on the schedule!


I have lived in the city yard area (east end) since 1957 and not once has anyone complained about the city yard. It might not be where the north end citizens care to live but it does not bother a soul. What does it need-a new roof on some buildings and making the workers clean up after themselves. What make us think the new city yard would not windup the same way in 5 years. If people think that is water front property they are sadly mistaken. Water front property is Hudson Park, but the north end has yet to discover that part of town.

Because of the shape of our city what we need is two small state of the art city yards with supervision.

but sadly it's already a done deal.

Just wait until the final bill is in on the boondoggle City Yard on Second 'Avenue'.

No matter, Idoni II will be reaping his reward in White Plains and his self-appointed clone will be Mayor and having dinner at Nick's new cabaret down by the water at the former City Yard.


You are right, not everybody has landscapers and at this point only very few landscapers have these mulching blades.

However, the blades are super cheap, 20$ and will fit right on your mower. And the mowers will not use more fuel. So it is mainly an issue of education and making small changes.

Please check out this clip.

New Rochelle and other communities are making changes that communal properties and parks are going to be mulch mowed, as it is truly a much better way.

For those residents that are still choosing to have their leaves removed, putting them in either bags or in barrels is not unreasonable to expect. The service of pick up will still be provided. If the bags break, clean up should be handled just like you would handle your spilled garbage can on the street.


I suggest you take a look at the White Plains DPW website and see what that city offers. They actually sold mulch from city leaves back to the landscapers.

Do you have a site where these blades are on a mower that a homeowner would use?

FYI, my name is Laraine.

Just google your mower and leaf mulching blade and you should find.

Thanks for the info on DPW in White Plains, I will check it out.

I have been to the DPW of different communities and Eastchester and Tuckahoe are fabulous in how it looks and how it is being run. Tuckahoe for example has their trucks run on recycled vegetable oil from the local restaurants. That is just fabulous all around.
And they have a rainwater cistern.



I am going to disagree with you.

There is currently a ordinance in the city code that requires landscapers to use 4 stroke engine leaf-blowers and prohibits the use of 2 stroke engine blowers. This ordinance is simply not enforced and almost all of the landscapers use 2 stroke models. Why because they are cheaper to operate and are more powerful which increases profits. I tend to believe passing an ordinance requiring landscapers to use mulching blades would meet a similar compliance profile. In the case of someone running landscaping business they might have to purchase between 50 and 100 of these blades. They would also be required to change blades twice a season. Both additional costs on a small business owner which would cut into potential profits.

Looking at the huge pile of leaves in front of my home it would probably take 100 lawn bags to properly collect them. How much do you think I would be charged to have that done ? Additionally, the landscaping companies that my neighbors use often blow the leaves from their lawns into my leaf pile. I would need to monitor the activities of my neighbor's landscapers which is something I really don't want to do.

While your idea sounds good in practice it would be extremely difficult to execute on. What experience has taught me; it is not the idea that matters but how effectively the idea can be executed upon. I think we both would agree the City of New Rochelle has some issues when it comes to execution.

The cost and service squeeze we face is simply a function of a system of health and pension benefits that are unsustainable and inconsistent with what is offered in the private sector. I would much rather see that system restructured for future, existing and recently retired municipal employees. Then we can let the City collect the leaves and have a sustainable finance structure going forward.

How Mulch is Too Mulch?

In this area of New Rochelle the lawns are inundated with so mnay leaves that simply mulching them would only serve to smother the lawns by early November. What to do with the rest of them - the larger percentage which falls from early November to the beginning of December?

Correct - good in theory but in reality it's not practical.

I don't feel you are disagreeing with me. You are correctly noting the problems in the current system. Yes, just passing an ordinance is not solving a problem and I am sure you are looking with "pleasure" at your huge pile. And you have very valid points.

What I was saying is that the leaf mulching program is gaining traction and is a great thing.

BTW, the landscapers I talked to love the system but are saying homeowners are so used to having completely clean and licked yards that most don't want to even try the mulching. The cost of blades and the few minutes to change the blades in the fall and the spring is not an issue.

Leaf mulching and leaving them on the lawn, or blowing the leaves together to use as carbon in my compost pile over the year are clearly the cheapest way of dealing with this. My leaves won't cost the next taxpayer any money.

But not everybody is able or willing to do that.

I do think that if leaves are bagged and picked up on a weekly schedule, just extending the yard debris pick up season, it would avoid these huge piles and also the fact of just blowing the leaves over to someone else's house.

The current system of monthly pick up of huge piles of loose leaves, with huge equipment (have you seen these claws and the open truck?), contaminated with all kinds of other yard debris from fall clean ups, is very very costly to all tax payers and very inefficient in use of manpower, equipment and fuel.

Right now, it takes 4 or 5 guys to pick up loose leaves. One guy to drive the equipment with the claw, 3 guys with rakes to get things into the claw and out of dips and other inaccessible areas, one guy to drive the truck. Its an open truck that does not allow for densifying at all, and we all know how voluminous leaves are. There is so much individual stand around time. If leaves were bagged, they could be picked up by the regular dump truck and with the regular crew of three guys, and one would be able to pick up so much more in one run.

I do think it is reasonable to expect home owners to bear the responsibility of bagging their leaves. Why should small garden owners pay for large garden owners? If everybody plans for it, it should be no problem to execute.

I do agree with you for sure that New Rochelle some issues when it comes to execution.

First I will say Anna I agree with you on the leaf front. When I first moved to the area I never understood the leaf pile which made road navigation a disaster. Frankly I think the City allowing them along roads and those who pile them have a liability as they are a hazzard. I also never understood the amount of energy in blowing and gathering something that in itself goes away naturally and enriches in the process. If people want neat clean lawns great bag em or pile them on your property but I do not like them on the roads for what seems like months.
I have large trees on my property I live next to the Sheldrake the leaf is a part of seasonal experience that I enjoy. If handled properly leaf piles turn into black gold in terms of soil in a short amount of time. I would be for dropping road side collection. That said I don't use chemicals on my lawn,I let nature do the watering and I believe we would all be better off putting less energy into lawns in general. A green lawn is not green but it clearly costs a lot of green.


Bagging leaves can work and puts the cost back to those with big yards and gardeners to the north. There are also several other ways to address the problem with smart use of manpower and planning. We could keep things the way they are but just manage things correctly. New Rochelle has a habit of poor communication and leaves the home owners guessing if the leaves should be bagged or not. Something as simple as leaves should not be so difficult to manage. My street once had most of the neighbors bagging leaves. Now over the last few years they stopped because they were tired of putting them out and bringing them back because they weren’t picked up for one reason or another. Until someone is held accountable for the poor performance and leadership, they will just keep working in the same manner. They don’t follow the City Charter much less a City Budget. I covered some of the same things you mentioned in my last three minutes of allowed comments at Citizens to be heard. Here are my comments:

Comments for November 13, 2012 Citizens to be Heard:

Mr. Mayor you made reference that picking up leaves and recyclable would not affect the clean-up efforts. Correct, the problem is that you don’t see the real reason people question the practice. It was the poor communication and use of manpower and resources that could have been reallocated in a more productive and cost effective manner not just standing around waiting for Con Ed. Spending man hours to pick up something that isn’t there is a waste of manpower. People brought in their recyclables and leaves due to the storms as most smart citizens do. Every year the poor communication has created the growing use of the curb over the use of bags; you and the City Staff continue to show a lack of knowledge of manpower and operational efficiencies to reduce costs. That is basic Management 101. I have managed sales, distribution and operations during Transit strikes, storms and disasters in Manhattan and the tri-state area; I think I have a sense of what it takes.

The three major changes highlighted by the City Manager were reduction in sworn police officers, an effective reduction in manning levels for the fire department and an end to loose leaf pick up. The same caned responses to tax increases. Scare the tax payers with the loss of the police and firemen. With all the committees you have formed you come back with the same stale answers. Why because you keep putting the same group of friends and patronizers together. If you go after a problem with the same methods and responses you will get the same answers. Not very creative crises management, this is a crisis to many taxpayers.

There is an unwillingness to address real fiscal issues which are both proper expense management and revenue generation. This speaks to incredibly poor judgment of basing revenue disproportionally on fee income. You do not go after elementary protection sources especially after years of failure in contract negotiations.

Never is there a mention of reducing administration headcount. These are the directions most corporations and business take before going after essential services. These same games and the lack of leadership and planning have probably cost us a good man in commissioner Freimuth.

There is no direct accountability and, as bad, no linkage between city administration and the school district which is pathetic in terms of property taxes and resource allocations. The city tax is about 18% of the tax bill. Council you need to put on your thinking cap and not only think of ways to cut city taxes but also the ways to get school taxes under control.

It is your responsibility to do everything you can for the taxpayers. As you find savings in the city administration there is probably three fold savings in the schools. The 1987 NYS legislation only required school board budgets being voted on by voters; a number of large cities such as New York directly link both council and school district.

Let’s work towards a better New Rochelle!

On bagging leaves it just wont work In New Rochelle.
One It will take the landscapers more time.
They will charge more for there services, and not to mention the cost of the bags.
Hopefully someone is listening!
* The City should offer the landscapers a place to bring the leaves in there trucks. Scarsdale Eastchester and others already do. A huge savings.
New Rochelle currently does not.
And lastly on the mulching blades, while it sounds like a good idea. It does not work in all applications, like heavy leaves, and it leaves the residences looking like a farm.
Lastly I want to comment on the planting of trees, The Mayor post the planting of 10,000 trees in the comming years in New Rochelle. Under more wires? so we can loose power once again.
While tree planting in itself is a good idea, Under wires is not.

Everyone's talking about leaves while the 7% tax increase is sneaking through. Of course, when more than 50% of the voters aren't those paying the property tax this spiral will never end. But this is what it does: Property tax is a big factor in a house purchase decision. NR city and school board are hurting us twice...with the higher tax payment and, as a result, a declining property value. Politicians will raid one community to satisfy another. A leader will try to support the entire community. Our NR politicians simply alienate those who support them financially. I hate NR and its governance, yet I call it home. we are in a death spiral unless a leader steps up (in NR, Westchester or Albany) to remodel local government.


Everyone should not just be talking about leaves while the 7% tax increase is sneaking through. That is correct, but until someone is held accountable for the poor performance and leadership, they will just keep working in the same manner. They don’t follow the City Charter much less a City Budget. I have never worked for a company large or small that lets you keep your job, borrow more money and ask for larger budget while cutting your critical staff. Then let you write your own performance review, give yourself a raise and a bigger office, all when you have missed your target goals and objectives.

It’s also troubling when the everyday citizen can see and point out opportunities for savings and The Mayor, The City Council, The City Manager and His Staff don’t see it. Even more difficult, is when they do see it and do nothing about it. Inspect what we expect. There is no expectation or accountability. They hold no fear of losing their jobs or their homes as the everyday citizen. Year after year we let the same people do the same things the same way. Over the years I have seen and heard people put out good ideas and opportunities for cost savings only to be shot down. Then there are those that are afraid to speak up for the fear of retribution and ridicule. It’s one thing when you make a lot of noise and complain for the sake of complaining. But when people speak up with cost saving, creative ideas and integrity they should at least be treated with respect and listened to. Many other municipalities are cutting costs and working with creative methods to save tax dollars.

Why it is most cities and towns that surround New Rochelle can get it? Citizens of New Rochelle; we can’t leave it to only the few that are willing to speak up. Inspect what we expect. Change the habits of old. Now is the time to time to step up and be heard. Get involved for the sake of your family and The City of New Rochelle.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


You make excellent points, thanks so much.

I have just attended a meeting in Tuckahoe about their DPW and they are soooo miles ahead of New Rochelle. What it comes down to is very simple. If you have at the head someone that cares and makes things happen, it will filter down to the boots and a culture of "can do" is created.


You are not a martyr simply because you pay tax.

Forst of all, what is the "other" community you are alluding to?

Stating that 50% of the residents (besides being an underhanded comment about "the poor" or "moochers") is false.

Renters do not _Directly_ pay property tax.

I am from Austin Tx. and I am looking at your newspaper because of the dastardly deed y'all did to gun permit holders. Looking around I see this, what a bunch of Lib.cry babies about leaves what are you going to do when the excrement really hits the fan. I am sure y'all do not think its going to happen but keep voting for progressives and see what happens,GOOD LUCK TO YOU.