A New Rochelle citizens panel today unveiled its report, Building a Balanced Path Forward for a Prosperous New Rochelle, which calls for cuts in municipal staffing, higher property and utility taxes, enactment of a real estate transfer tax and new fees to help balance the budget.
These recommendations were among several included in the well-documented 57-papge report that is sure to become fodder for much discussion in upcoming months. It provides a template for residents of other municipalities concerned about rising municipal costs, compliance with the state’s 2-percent tax cap, and creating a government that provides necessary services, at an affordable cost.
“We hope this report provides a window into how our city government work and, in fact, how well our leaders have managed through a tough environment,” Chairperson Todd Kern wrote. “At the same time, I caution anyone against pulling out any single item or recommendation in isolation from the broader, integrated context within which it is offered.”
The report was issued as the city looks to close an estimated $29 million budget gap over the next three years. It warns, though, that action by the city won’t solve all taxpayer issues in New Rochelle because municipal taxes account for just 18 percent of a property owners’ tax bill.
The report calls for what it calls a “balanced” solution, with a mix of cuts, new revenues and targeted investments.
New revenues include monetizing certain public assets. That includes selling ad space on public property, $25,000; and creating optional on-street permit parking, $225,000.
Additional tax revenues and fees would come from an annual increase in the property tax rate of 4.96 percent; increase in utility gross receipts tax from 1 to 3 percent, $8.4 million; enact real estate transfer tax of 1 percent, $4.5 million; charge water rate payers for hydrant maintenance, $3.9 million; new fee for sewer and storm-sewer costs, $2.7 million; fines for false fire alarms, $285,000; fines for false police alarms, $225,000; installation of cameras at stop lights for automatic tickets, $375,000; increase marina fees, $450,000; cut recreational program support, $445,000.
Among the cuts: require leaf-bagging , which will encourage mulching, $600,000; reorganize police coverage, reducing one sector, $810,000; cut six firefighter positions by adjusting manning, $900,000; and reduce crossing-guard program by 50 percent, $375,000.