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Lawsuit Filed Over New Rochelle Increased Garbage Fee

A former Council candidate is suing the City.

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.

Stephen I. Mayo January 29, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Warren's comments are helpful to the extent that they identify the structure of taxation as a problem. I hope the instant action will, if nothing else, provoke such a discussion and perhaps some improvement. But ultimately, if things are left to elected politicians as Bill would have it, nothing will be done. Talk about vanity? Bill has revealed what drives his blind support for the garbage fee. He says that it provides him a tax bounty; at the expense of his despised renters. At least this plaintiff can claim a civic purpose; challenging a revenue trick that violates statute, case law and the US and NYS constitutions. I have suggested that if the action succeeds, people in our position might expect to pay something less in taxes than in garbage fees; but that is not certain. It is a distinct possibility that any tax imposed as a consequence might equal the bite of the fake/phony garbage fee. But some believe that there are things more important than private benefit; more important than whether one's tax bill is lower than one's neighbor's. Things like civic virtue, due process, the rule of law, respect for language. Regarding Bill's perfervid recollection of the campaign season, and his egregiously obvious personal animus; these will have to be left to the judgment of others.
Bill January 30, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Steve, you have too much fire. I certainly do not "despise" renters; but I want to see more of the fair cost of governance put upon them. And fairness is no "bounty." Nor do I bear you any animus. You are a nice fellow who is embarked on a fool's errand that will cost me more money. Give it up. And Warren, yes these are complex issues, but that really aren't all that complex; Simply, some pay far more than their share; and some pay far less. I would certainly favor replacing real taxes with income tax; but my experience tells me that we would never get the support on NYC politicians at the state level; so I suggest the possible, not the perfect solution. Another problem with income tax is that it tends to stay in Albany and not come back to us. Some sort of local tax for local government is much better. An Ideal would be a $200/month per bedroom tax, to start, on everyone. And landlords who don't want to pay it or pass it on should not expect me to continue subsidizing their profits. And, these changes involve the tax code, not the Constitution.
Stephen I. Mayo January 30, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Not a fool's errand in the opinion of every individual I have met, and nearly every commenter on Patch and other forums. If justice, fairness and constitutionality in taxation impact you unjustly, then you indeed have a problem; why not take it up with one of your legislators? For myself, I will not "carry" you just so you can continue to enjoy an unearned bounty. Many have had concerns about levels of local taxation and not heard a peep of support, never mind an offer of subsidy, from the likes of you.
James January 30, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Mr. Mayo, the Dr.will see you now.
Billy January 30, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Bill a lot of city's issues could be solved if city hall would only cut expenses & not look to increase revenue at every turn. 10+% tax increases are way way too high, don’t you think? Or (which I think is the case) do you actually support these tax increases? I can’t figure out why you'd support these tax increaes unless you either live in a rental unit or have a big trust fund somewhere to pay for it as most of us working stiffs got a 1-2% wage increase this year that barely covers this increase not to mention other increases like gasoline.

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