The City Manager has released his budget proposal for 2006. It includes a 4.5% increase in the property tax rate, with a simultaneous 20% reduction in the residential refuse fee. The latter is the first of several planned reductions that will eventually phase out the fee entirely. These two steps result in an effective tax increase for the typical homeowner of 1.7% ($70), or about half of last year’s inflation rate. It is worth noting that New Rochelle’s municipal tax rate will remain the lowest among Westchester’s urban centers, including Yonkers, White Plains, Mount Vernon, and Peekskill.
In terms of services, the budget proposes a very modest expansion in our Police force and an enhancement of the Planning Division in our Department of Development. These are appropriate steps in light of the major downtown development now underway. Public Safety and Public Works continue to account for the lion’s share of our operating expenses, comprising roughly two-thirds of our costs.
Finally, the budget includes $5.8 million in capital expenditures, most of which are funded through grants, with $2 million coming from the City’s general fund. In my judgment, this may be the component of our budget that falls shortest of the community’s needs.
It is possible that the Council will amend the budget prior to adoption next week, but I think it likely that the budget’s core components will be approved as proposed.