By CHRIS EBERHART
New Rochelle City Manager Chuck Strome released the city’s 2014 proposed budget, this week, which calls for a 5.83 percent tax levy increase, well over New York State’s 1.66 percent tax cap, along with a total city expenditure of $169.2 million, which is roughly a $12.6 million increase over the current year.
In order to get under the cap mandate, Strome said the city would’ve had to cut $2.2 million in staffing and services.
“There is no way to meet the state tax cap with our budget without significant cuts,” Strome said. “For the city to remain inside the tax cap, we’d only be able to raise $872,000 in additional revenue. That would fall way short of covering union contracts, commitments and would just barely cover the cost of health insurance increases by the state.”
If the budget is approved as is, the overall tax rate will increase by 6.52 percent, or cost the average homeowner an extra $207 per year.
The tax cap levy, which increased by 5.83 percent, is the total amount of money that can be raised through property taxes to cover public services and is the number capped by state legislation.
Despite the increase in property taxes, the proposed budget exhibits positive economic growth for New Rochelle for the first time since the recession began in 2007, Strome said.
Strome said revenue from sales taxes, mortgage taxes and building permits have all increased in the past year; bonds from 2004 and 2005 have been paid off; long-term contracts with five of the six city unions are complete with the sixth—the Police Superior Officers’ Association—close to completion and two new staff members hired: a full-time parks maintenance position and a full-time human resources position, which was once part-time.
Strome also proposed $13.9 million in spending toward capital improvements, which is largely funded by state and federal funds, to complete three major projects in the city: replacing 20 traffic lights on Main and Huguenot streets, improved drainage at Halcyon Park and replacing five traffic lights on Pelham Road.
The budget for capital improvements also includes money to replace old and deteriorating DPW trucks, add a new fire engine, complete Phase I of energy-efficient window installations in City Hall and replace a 15-year-old boat lift .
Strome said, in 2014, major budgetary priorities include ongoing projects such as redeveloping Echo Bay and the armory, installing new security cameras, red-light camera enforcements at certain points, constructing a new City Yard facility on Beechwood Avenue, completing repairs from Hurricane Sandy and technological advancements.
In order to pass and override the 1.66 percent state tax cap, the budget will require approval of a supermajority, five of seven members of the City Council. The council will discuss the budget later this month, and a public hearing will be held prior to the budget’s adoption on Dec. 17.