This is my eighth and final post devoted to the 2011 budget and to the trends and circumstances that shape it. If you have read every word of the prior posts, you deserve some sort of prize. Even if you only skimmed them, I express thanks for your interest … and for your patience with a rather long-winded discussion. In this difficult economic climate, there are no easy or pleasing choices, but there are better and worse choices, and we have a responsibility together to sort them out. I hope that the information I’ve presented will help us accomplish this goal.
So … this year’s budget process is now over. Last night, the City Council voted first for a package of amendments to the City Manager’s original budget proposal and then voted for the amended budget itself. Taken together, the amendments:
- cut the proposed property tax increase from 3.90% down to 2.81%; this final approved rate translates into about $81 per year for the average taxpayer;
- cut the property tax levy by $501,000, meaning that the City will actually collect less in property taxes in 2011 than it did in 2010; and
- increase the City’s fund balance by $550,000, which will strengthen our fiscal position heading into 2012, and also better enable us to address unanticipated events in 2011.
Keep in mind that most of the really meaningful budget actions have unfolded during the past two years or were already embedded in the City Manager’s proposal. So these amendments are a little anti-climactic and quite small in the context of an overall budget that exceeds $100 million. The amendments do not alter the larger analyses of budget components and trends in my prior posts, all of which still apply.
Budgets are often the subject of political wrangling — sometimes driven by principled differences and other times by partisanship. It is notable, therefore, that the budget amendments and the budget as a whole were approved on a unanimous bipartisan basis.
Throughout this process, my intent has been to achieve an appropriate balance between protecting the interests of taxpayers, providing for investments in essential services, and securing the City’s longer-term health and stability. Seemingly simply goals, but often in tension with each other and constrained by circumstances beyond our control. So far, I think we have achieved this balance in a reasonable way, and I hope you agree.
You can read the statement I made in conjunction with my vote. It restates some of the language in this and prior posts.
Our work does not end with the adoption of a single budget, but requires instead a constant attention to the shifting needs and conditions within our community. The year ahead may defy expectations, for good or for bad. And before long, we’ll be wrestling with options for 2012.
Finally, notwithstanding the difficulties of the moment, New Rochelle retains the strength and vibrancy of a great and growing community, with every reason for confidence in its future.
Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions.