New Rochelle City Manager Chuck Strome has submitted his budget proposal for 2015. The document extends the tight fiscal controls adopted with the onset of the recession in 2008.
Our cost of operations is projected to be about $117 million, a reduction of $3.5 million compared to last year. City staffing would remain lean – down about 82 positions (or 12%) from the pre-recession high. In keeping with long-term contractual obligations with our municipal labor unions, net salary levels would increase by about 2%.
Taxpayers would see a modest increase of 1.79% in the City tax levy, which is consistent with the State tax cap. This translates into a $95 increase for the average property taxpayer, or about 0.5% of the total tax bill. (Remember that the City accounts for only about 1/6 of your property taxes.)
Buried in the document are an assortment of both positive and negative data points. Pension costs are projected to come down about $1 million after many years of increases (good,) while health insurance costs continue to rise about $325,000 (bad.) Total assessed value continues to decline modestly (bad,) while the total market value of property is increasing for the first time since the recession hit (good.) Reliance on fund balance is lower (good,) but so is our projected unreserved fund balance (bad.) Sales tax revenue is likely to hit a record high (good,) yet is growing at a slow rate (bad.)
Overall, the positives and negatives balance pretty evenly, and the resulting budget is largely a status quo document that would maintain municipal services, provide for necessary (albeit inadequate) capital expenditures, and preserve a level of taxation that is the lowest among Westchester’s big cities.
The City Council and I will devote several meetings this month to budget presentations and discussions, and we may choose to amend the City Manager’s proposal before adopting a final budget in December.
You can read the full budget proposal here.