Plan Invests In Essential Services & Infrastructure
New Rochelle’s 2008 budget maintains the City’s commitment to responsible long-term fiscal management, while modestly expanding core services and investing in infrastructure and programming important to our quality of life.
As always, public safety and public works account for the lion’s share of our expenditures — roughly 2/3 of our $106 million general fund. To enhance these services, we created two new police officer positions (part of a multi-year expansion of our downtown police presence), purchased new technology and vehicles, increased the frequency of catch basin cleaning as a flood mitigation measure, and augmented our tree planting and maintenance efforts.
Other smaller highlights of the budget include: traffic studies to assess capital or regulatory changes that might enhance safety and efficiency, cultural planning and public art, expansion of our youth employment and training program, conversion of a sanitation truck to hybrid electric, commencement of the second phase of our North Avenue streetscape upgrade, new grant research and writing assistance, and redesign of the City website to improve its user-friendliness. I am pleased also that several programs initiated last year have been maintained or expanded, including those related to residential traffic calming and rehabilitation of our memorials and monuments.
DOWNLOAD a copy of the 2008 budget. (Please note that the Council adopted a number of small amendments prior to final passage of the budget, and that these are not yet reflected in this document.) The introductory message from the City Manager, as well as the tables at the beginning and end of the document, offer especially good overviews of New Rochelle’s fiscal condition.
In order to provide for long-term fiscal stability, the budget maintains a healthy unappropriated fund balance (essentially our savings account) of some $9.3 million, well within the range recommended by municipal finance experts. This is among the factors that earned New Rochelle a bond rating upgrade to AA, the first such upgrade in 70 years.
The impact of the budget on taxpayers is mixed. The total bill for the typical homeowner will increase by 1.5%, or $193 dollars per year. This results from a City tax rate increase of 9% combined with a simultaneous 33% reduction in the residential refuse fee. It is noteworthy that New Rochelle’s cumulative ten-year property tax increase is considerably lower than that of the other urban centers in Westchester.
All this said, New Rochelle, like every other community in the region, continues to face serious long-term fiscal constraints and challenges. Many of our mandated expenses are rising faster than the rate of inflation. For example, health insurance costs have ballooned by 72% during the past five years, and energy costs will increase by 28% next year alone. Meeting this higher cost structure without overburdening local taxpayers requires sensible economic development strategies, an ongoing commitment to efficiency and savings, and a more equitable distribution of State aid (a priority that our State legislative delegation is addressing vigorously.)