Proposed City Budget Busts Tax Cap: 6.99% Tax Increase, No Layoffs

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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- City Manager Charles B. Strome is calling for a 6.99% tax increase based on a 5.75% increase in the City's levy, far in excess of the 2.49 tax levy cap required by New York State. As a result, the City will be required to hold a Public Hearing on the budget and secure a super-majority vote on Council.

Strome and City Finance Commissioner Howard Ratner met with reporters on Friday at City Hall.

The three major changes highlighted by Strome was a reduction in sworn police officers to 158 through attrition, an effective reduction in manning levels for the fire department and an end to loose leaf pick up. The police department is down from over 180 officers three years ago, according to Strome. The fire department manning levels were 31 several years ago but since reduced to 27. Under the current budget the City will not pay overtime to add manpower on a given shift unless the manning level falls below 24 and will only then bring them level up to 24, not 27. As a result, Ladder 12 will likely be out of service on a recurring basis. Residents will be required to bag all leaves starting next year.

The cost savings to the City will be roughly $750,000: $250,000 by eliminating loose leave pick up, $200,000 through police officer attrition, and $300,000 through reduced overtime for firefighters.

Strome said he was not happy with the budget but blamed the State government for the decision to exceed the tax cap.

"They have provided no meaningful mandate relief," said Strome. "The system has set us up to fail."

Howard Ratner said the maximum amount of tax increase under the state tax levy cap is $1.2 mm. The bill presented to the City by the State for pension and health costs is $2.8 million, leaving a hole in the budget of $1.6 million.

Strome singled out United Water for criticism as well saying that charging the City, and thus property owners, $1mm for fire hydrants was unfair in a City where 30% of the property is owned by non-profit organizations including Iona College and the College of New Rochelle. Strome wants the cost of fire hydrants across the entire rate payer base, shifting the cost to all water users including non-profits.

While there will be some headcount reduction through attrition, there will be no layoffs this year.

"This is the minimal level of service I am comfortable with," said Strome. "There is no fat, no cushy areas in this budget."

Strome noted that over the past three years, there was been a reduction of 85 positions in the City government or about 13% of the total workforce.

2013 Proposed Staffing New Ro

Strome hinted at what he believes is the real driver of sky-high tax bills in New Rochelle.

"If we eliminate all City services that comes out to $3,000 out of a typical $18,000 tax bill".

The City's share of the overall tax bill is about 16.7%. About two-thirds of property taxes in New Rochelle go to the school district with the balance going to to the County government.

Citizens Panel on Sustainable Budgets
Proposed 2013 City Budget

Official Statement on New Rochelle Proposed 2013 Budget

2013 Proposed Budget Released

New Rochelle City Manager Charles Strome III today released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2013. In the midst of the prolonged economic recession, the budget calls for a real estate tax levy increase of 5.57%, requiring an override of the State tax cap legislation, but preserves most of the services the City provides.

“Adopting a budget within the tax cap legislation produces a $1.5 million shortfall that can only be met with the type of programmatic and personnel cuts that I cannot recommend,” said Strome. “In a debilitated economic environment, we continue to be subject to State-imposed mandates for pension, health insurance and employee binding arbitration costs that are impossible to be funded under the parameters of the tax cap legislation.”

Many of the City’s historical major revenue sources, such as sales taxes, mortgage taxes, building permits and State aid, have been negatively impacted by economic conditions, necessitating greater reliance on the local property tax or other revenue sources, Strome noted. Under the tax cap legislation, the allowable increase to property taxes will not even cover the $1.75 million cost of State-imposed pension increases.

“The 5.57% increase to the tax levy equates to a tax rate increase of 6.99% because our tax base fell by another $3.6 million this past year,” added Strome. The proposed tax increase for the average homeowner is $206, or about one percent of the total tax bill.

The budget does not call for any employee layoffs but proposes to eliminate curbside loose-leaf pickup, cut police staffing by two vacant positions and reduce firefighter manning at certain times. All of these reductions were recommended in the recently issued report by the Citizen’s Panel on Sustainable Budgets.

“The City will continue to provide our extraordinary level of service to our citizens,” Strome concluded. “This budget proposes an appropriate blend of property tax increases and expenditure reductions that will carry us through these challenging economic times.”

Copies of the proposed budget are available in the City Clerk’s office, at the New Rochelle Public Library and on the City’s website http://www.newrochelleny.com/2013proposedbudget. The City Council will conduct budget review meetings in November and hold a public hearing on December 4th in advance of the adoption of a tax rate in December.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Ilovenr2 on Mon, 11/12/2012 - 17:49

We don't need a full time mayor and Churck Strome. We can save a lot of money right there. We need to cut the fat in City hall. The high salary employees should not get a raises. We can save a lot of money that way too.

Kurt Colucci's picture
Kurt Colucci on Mon, 11/12/2012 - 15:02

"When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law" -Fredrick Bastiat

Chuck Strome should offer up his resignation as city manager immediately. The flawed argument that this years additional 7% confiscation only applies to 17% of our tax bill is an argument rooted in a position of weak subservience.

We all learned it in kindergarten, stealing is wrong.
What ever happened to the principle of self-ownership? You own your life. No other person, or group of persons owns your life or the productive effort of it.

The harvest of your life is your property. This additional 7% is still the fruit of your labor, the product of your time, energy and talents.

As free individuals, we have the right to protect our lives, freedoms and justly acquired property. Our elected and appointed leaders have a DUTY to do the same on our behalf! After all, that is their primary function in a free society.

We all know that democrats had a clean sweep this past year...people have a right to elect leaders for themselves, but they do not have a right to impose rulers on others.

City council must reject this failed man whom we call a city manager. If not, we need to reject our rubber stamp city council of lords!

Each of is owns our lives. Since you own your life, you are responsible for your life. Success and failure are both necessary incentives to learn and grow!

It is our duty to disobey unjust laws.
Stealing the minutes of someone's life by way of a 7% tax increase is a cowardly act.

It is time for Chuck Strome to resign and let A more capable individual attempt to clean up this mess!

If anyone is open to a more clear and detailed debate you know where to find me.

Kurt Colucci's picture
Kurt Colucci on Mon, 11/12/2012 - 16:39

Bob,

Once again I'd like to thank you for bringing important issues to the forefront. Great job.

Above you all on Sun, 11/11/2012 - 18:22

Go to a volunteer council, the money saved there will help out.

South End Resid... on Sun, 11/11/2012 - 17:28

The proposed budget is a necessary evil in order to run this city efficiently. As the city budget represents less than 17% of our entire tax bill, the increase is not as bad as it sounds. It is not a 6.99% increase of our entire tax bill, it is only a 6.99% increase of 17% of our entire tax bill. Of course any increase is bad in these economic times but it is necessary. The city is serving 77,000+ citizens on 17% of the tax bill. The employees of our city are doing a terrific job based on their financial restrictions. They are working with a skeleton crew and are being pushed to the brink. We need to maintain the few people we have left. I know none of us want tax increases, but this proposal is just a bandage to keep the city going. Please try to keep an tolerant and open mind when considering this increase.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Sun, 11/11/2012 - 17:49

The money is in the school district...

If you take a few moments to read the New Rochelle Board of Education Citizen Advisory Committee on the Budget you will see the district is wasting millions of dollars.

http://bit.ly/SbWI6o

For example, last year the district paid hourly employees anywhere from $5-10 over market rate for a range of positions. This did not used to be that big a deal because the number of hours paid was 10-20,000 hours of time worked. That was 6-7 years ago. Last year the number of hours paid for hourly workers was 330,000 hours.

330,000 x $5 per hour "bonus" is just under $2 million

That alone is greater than the amount the City can increase taxes under the tax levy -- and that is just ONE example of wasteful spending in the school district.

Read the report.

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