The City of New Rochelle released its proposed 2013 budget Friday, calling for a tax levy increase of 5.57 percent, well above the state tax cap allowable for the city of 2.49 percent.
City Manager Charles Strome III said the proposed budget saves about $750,000 by cutting $300,000 in fire department overtime, $200,000 in police-force reduction by attrition and $250,000 by requiring residents to bag leaves for collection in the fall.
Total spending in the proposed budget is $153,551,034, an increase of $5,110,249 from the revised 2012 budget.
Strome said the budget, if approved as presented, will require the City Council to override the state's tax cap with a supermajority of five votes.
He said if the city had to operate under the cap there would be a $1.5 million shortfall in the budget, requiring a reduction in staffing and services.
"We would have to rely on the elimination of major services if we were to stay within the level of the state tax cap," Strome said.
He said, under the tax cap legislation, the increase in property taxes allowed would not even cover the $1.75 million of state-imposed pension increases.
"The state has put an imposition on the municipalities while sending us a bill we cannot pay," Strome said.
He said the tax-rate increase would be about 6.99 percent, or an overall tax bill increase of 1 percent for the average taxpayer, or $207 per year. The city's tax base fell by another $3.6 million during the past year.
The budget does not call for any layoffs, but proposes to eliminate curbside loose-leaf pickup, cut two already vacant police positions and reduce fire-fighter staffing at certain times.
Strome said the city currently brings fire fighters on the job, paying them overtime when staffing levels dip below 27.
Under the proposed budget, there will be no overtime until the staffing level falls below 24.
The three cost-savings were recommended by the Citizens Panel on Sustainable Budgets.
Strome said he wasn't comfortable with any of the material he was presenting.
"I would like to have a fully staffed police department," he said. "I would like to provide leaf pickup to residents.
"The state of New York and the economy have come together with a perfect storm," Strome said. "Most communities stayed within the tax cap last year, but I think we will be the first in a line of dominoes to fall.
"The math has set us up to fail," he said.
Copies of the proposed budget are available in the City Clerk’s office, at the New Rochelle Public Library and on the City’s website www.newrochelleny.com/2013proposedbudget. The City Council will conduct budget review meetings in November and hold a public hearing on Dec. 4 in advance of the adoption of a tax rate in December.