A former candidate for City Council has filed a lawsuit against the City of New Rochelle with the hopes of rescinding the newly imposed residential refuse fee.
During a press conference held Tuesday in front of City Hall, Stephen Mayo said he had filed an Article 78 lawsuit, which challenges government decisions or actions.
Mayo said the City Council, in tacking on an increased residential garbage fee, was disingenuous at best.
"When they say, we only raised taxes 5 or 6 percent, ignoring the fee which is the equivalent of 8 or 9 percent, is to me bad law and it's abuse of our language," he said. "This is a tax, justify it as a tax, and raise the cap. I think it's fair."
The City Council decided not to override the state-mandated tax cap, meaning that it could not raise the tax levy beyond 3.68 percent, which is the maximum allowed by the state's "tax cap" legislation. The increase is comprised of the 2 percent growth rate allowable, plus a 1.68 percent exclusion due to pension cost increases.
To make up for a revenue shortfall, during discussions for the 2012 budget last year, the city proposed raising the per unit garbage fee from $66 to to $223 per year. Seniors who qualify will continue to pay $30 per unit per year.
"I'm just one taxpayer," Mayo said, "and taking on city government is kind of a David versus Goliath proposition, but I believe that when taxpayers see how outrageous this fake 'fee-tax' is, this issue will gain attention and support and we can work together as an informed and mobilized citizen group to stop this 'slight of hand' type of accounting in our city budget."
City Manager Charles Strome III said he wasn't in the habit of responding to pending litigation, but added that the lawsuit was completely without merit.
"The residential refuse fee is not unique to New Rochelle," he said. "It covers the cost the city incurs for collection and disposal of residential refuse."
Mayo, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council for District 6, said he thought the council could have been a more committed and a more driven about the problem of the budget and the problem of spending.
"I do think they could have cut a little more when it came time to set the budget," he said.
Mayo suggested there could have been a serious addressing of personnel expenses.
"They could have eliminated some administrative expense," he said. "Yes, layoffs."
Another way Mayo said would be to "share the pain," by going to a four-day work week.
"These are things you do in private industry," he said. "If you are going to be efficient, government has to start talking like private industry.
"You have to look at every possible aspect. I don't think the city did it," Mayo said.