As another year comes to an end, another difficult budget was passed by my colleagues and me on the New Rochelle City Council. When considering the New York State unfunded mandates, recession induced declining revenues, and a diminishing property tax base largely created by individual property reassessments, it becomes that much harder to provide the core services that allow New Rochelle to function properly.
However, in this budget, we were able to avoid layoffs, keep minimum manning levels in the Fire Department steady at 27 per shift, and maintain leaf pickup services that do not require residents to bag their own leaves. Additionally, key investments were made with an eye on the future, including studies to find greater efficiencies in the Department of Public Works and the Fire Department. Moreover, monies were set aside for additional capital improvement projects, and greater marketing tools for our Department of Development to attract new businesses. All of this was done with a tax increase of 6.99% which amounts to a 1% increase on the total tax bill for the average New Rochelle homeowner.
It is always tough to ask taxpayers – including myself – to pay an increased rate on their property tax bill, especially in these tough economic times. As we deal with the aftermath of the “Great Recession” and become adjusted to our realities of this “new normal it is imperative that we grow our way out of this situation as opposed to the mentality of “cut, cut, cut” until there is nothing left. This is especially true with a workforce that is already at dangerously low levels.
With a rebounding economy ripe for investment dollars, New Rochelle has an opportunity to take advantage of our tremendous natural assets. Much work has already been done, especially in our downtown; it is time for us to reach our potential as the “Queen City of the Sound”.