New Rochelle residents will not be required to mulch or bag their leaves next fall, and they can be confident that the city's fire department staffing levels will not change in 2013.
The City Council Tuesday adopted the 2013 budget after making some changes to the proposal crafted by the City Manager.
Total spending in the adopted budget is slightly more than $153.5 million, an increase of over $5 million from the 2012 revised budget.
The adopted budget calls for a tax levy increase of 5.57 percent, well above the state tax cap allowable for the city of 2.49 percent.
There was a super majority on the council, as required by law, that voted to override the tax cap. The vote fell along party lines.
The tax-rate increase will be about 6.99 percent, or an overall tax bill increase of 1 percent for the average taxpayer, amounting to about $207 per year.
All members of the council, except for Mayor Noam Bramson, voted to restore $300,000 in fire department overtime costs to the budget. The difference would have meant overtime would not kick in until staffing levels fall below 24 fire fighters as opposed to 27 at present.
Councilman Louis Trangucci, R-District 1, said it wasn't worth the risk to the city's insurance rating to cut staffing.
"The concern is that going to 24 men will change the ISO rating," he said. "That rating will have a dramatic impact on insurance premiums."
Trangucci said that the additional cost to taxpayers would be about $15 to keep the overtime in the budget, where the possible increase in insurance could be anywhere from $200 to $300.
Byron Gray, president of the New Rochelle Uniformed Fire Fighters Association, was happy the amendment to restore the overtime was passed and that the budget passed.
"At least we have some security for the next year," he said.
However, Gray said, national standards call for lot more fire fighters for a city the size of New Rochelle.
"It keeps Ladder 12 open," he said, adding that the company was the first on the scene of a recent fire, that used all 27 fire fighters on duty at the time.
"They made a big difference," Gray said.
Both Bramson and Councilwoman Shari Rackman, D-District 6, voted against restoring $250,000 for seasonal leaf collection to the budget.
Councilman Barry Fertel, D-District 5, said it was possible for the city to provide this service cheaper—at about $12 per homeowner—than residents could purchase it.
"I understand that if they were required to use gardeners, the average cost would be $150 to $200," he said.
There are no layoffs in the 2013 budget. Two police positions that are currently vacant will be eliminated.