It’s not a good idea just yet for us to gather in a big crowd at City Hall for a traditional State of the City Address, so, instead, I recorded a message to report on the opportunities and challenges confronting New Rochelle, and on the progress we have made together as a community. Please watch a video of the speech or read my remarks.
Even through the worst of the pandemic, New Rochelle kept making big strides on the essential priorities that will shape our future. When it comes to our economy and our budget, our environment and our neighborhoods, and our commitment to the dignity and worth of all people, we are poised to emerge from the crisis with fresh momentum and a renewed sense of possibility and optimism. The State of our City is strong.
Citing New Rochelle’s stable financial operations, healthy reserves, and manageable debt burden, Moody’s Investors Services has confirmed our Aa2 bond rating, which we have held since receiving an upgrade from Aa3 in 2017. This strong rating benefits taxpayers by keeping the City’s interest payments low and highlights the excellent fiscal management of our finance team. More in this press release.
City Manager Chuck Strome’s draft budget for 2022 proposes enhanced investments in infrastructure and public safety staffing, while adhering to the State property tax cap. Here’s a little more detail, as well as links to a presentation and the proposed budget itself. The City Council will review the document during the weeks ahead and will have an opportunity to consider potential amendments prior to adopting a final budget in mid-December.
Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), New Rochelle has been awarded nearly $37 million over two years to address the impacts of the COVID pandemic and “build back better.” Last night, the City Administration presented a proposed plan of action for utilizing our ARPA allocation. In addition to complying with the ARPA’s guidelines and restrictions, this plan is also designed to “(1) avoid duplication with Federal, State, and County programming; (2) achieve a whole-of-community, not just governmental, recovery; (3) prioritize one-time expenditures with sustained, long-term impact; and (4) reach for transformative opportunities that might be unattainable without the ARPA’s unique infusion of resources.” Read the whole plan here, as well as backup documentation related to green infrastructure, social infrastructure, and economic infrastructure. The City Council will consider this proposal in the context of our 2022 budget.
The City’s just-released annual comprehensive financial report and independent audit shows a (surprisingly, given the pandemic) positive fiscal picture for New Rochelle, with COVID-related revenue decreases offset by spending reductions. A healthy fund balance, retirement of debt, and federal rescue aid should provide a solid foundation for essential City operations and infrastructure investments going forward. This fiscal foundation will be further strengthened by new revenue from economic development. More reasons to be bullish about New Rochelle’s future. Here’s the full report.
The COVID relief package approved this week by Congress includes a wide range of positive features to help struggling families and businesses get back on their feet and to advance public health. Among other things, it could cut child poverty in half, a remarkable achievement.
Beyond these broad national impacts, the State and local aid provisions of the bill are highly significant to New Rochelle. Our city will receive approximately $36 million in direct aid, spread over two years. This assistance will enable New Rochelle to recoup COVID-related expenses and revenue losses, while also positioning our community as a whole for sustained recovery and resilience.
The precise use of our aid must fit certain limited categories defined in the legislation — we can’t spend the money on just anything. In the weeks ahead, the City Council and Administration will carefully review these parameters in order to ensure that federal assistance is used most effectively and equitably.
I thank President Biden, Majority Leader Schumer, and our entire federal delegation for their leadership on this critical priority.