Mount Vernon – The Mount Vernon City Council passes the 2019 Budget (see below) in special meeting, Friday morning. Following the special council meeting, Mayor Richard Thomas vetoed what he called ‘the City Council’s illegal 2019 budget” in a statement.
“While it has been a challenging effort, I am happy to report that the City Council passed the City’s budget this morning by a vote of 4-1,” Council President Andre Wallace tells Black Westchester. “With only Councilwoman Duarte voting against, the rest of the City Council voted to approve a rational, reasonable, and fiscally responsible budget for the people of Mount Vernon. We can begin the process of moving the people’s business forward.”
Mayor Thomas tells a different story, “On Friday morning, the Mount Vernon City Council adopted an illegal $112 million budget that neglects serious, legally mandated obligations like the remediation of Memorial Field, DPW yard, broken bridges and the repairs of our ancient sewers,” Mayor Thomas said. “I vetoed the City Council’s illegal 2019 budget today.”
The budget’s adoption came after Reynolds implored the council to approve her budget because without sending out tax bills immediately the city could run out of money by next month. The average city taxpayer, with a home assessed at $10,000, it would see their tax bill rise by about $77, to $4,036. The budget is usually adopted in December and its adoption six weeks into the year was believed to be the latest the city has gotten a new budget, lohud reports.
The longstanding Civil War in City Hall continues, but as in the past three years, Mayor Thomas’s veto is only a delay not the end of the 2019 budget. The city of Mount Vernon has been here before in the three previous years of the Thomas Administration. Although in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the budget was on time, this year the city is not in compliance as the process didn’t start until mid January, despite the charter calling for the budget to be submitted no later than November 23rd.
With all the conflicting information coming out of City Hall, the residents are left trying to figure our exactly what’s going on, who do they believe and why we still do not have a budget in mid February. To find out how we move forward, we might have to go back and see how this was handled in recent history.
In the three previous years of the Thomas Administration, the mayor put forth a proposed budget, the council and comptroller (Walker and now Reynolds) go over the numbers and present a revised budget. The Board of Estimates & Contracts votes 2-1 or 2-0 (council president and comptroller voting yah) and Mayor Thomas voting nay or abstaining it like he did this year, claiming Reynolds and Wallace were not providing enough time to for him to review it. The Council the holds a public hearing and then adopts (passes) the budget. Mayor Thomas vetoes it and the Council overrides the mayor’s veto and the majority of Board of Estimates (council president and comptroller) vote for it again.
So much like 2016, 2017, and 2018 the mayor’s veto is just a delay, but as long as the council and comptroller are on the same page, the budget will be passed despite what the mayor is telling the residents in his statement; “Mayor Thomas will now consider additional actions he may take to have the 2019 budget revised or rescinded.” While it is his job to present a proposed budget the charter does not allow the mayor the unilaterally put a budget in place with out the council, comptroller and board of estimates. The founding fathers of the city framed the charter for equal government to prevent any one branch from doing what they want.
“In the end, the budget reflects only a 1.93% increase, which is less than that originally proposed by Mayor Thomas and one that eliminated some of the top-heavy raises for his appointed commissioners and adds funding for Memorial Field clean-up,” Councilman Wallace shares. “The City Council’s final budget recognizes the other, more urgent priorities facing the City this year, including beginning the process of reestablishing the good name and credit of Mount Vernon. I would like to commend all of the Council Members who voted for the budget and who placed the people of this City above politics. I would also offer a special thanks to Councilman Marcus Griffith for his valuable contribution, tireless efforts, and support throughout this process. I should also extend the Council’s thanks to Comptroller Debra Reynolds who assisted us by providing invaluable financial information about the City’s current finances.”
“The best budget is one where nobody is happy,” Councilwoman Lisa Copeland said Wednesday night at the regularly scheduled Council meeting. “Everybody should get something, but nobody should get everything. Politics is about the art of compromise.”
Councilwoman Lisa Copeland paused a long time before she cast her vote, Friday morning approving the budget, prefacing it by saying she thought it may be the worst vote of her life and she expects to regret it, lohud reported.
“If we don’t vote and we run out of money, we’re the bad guys,” she said earlier. “And if we vote on what I think is a bad budget, we’re the bad guys.”
The budget is usually adopted in December but the 2019 budget wasn’t adoption until six weeks into the year which may be the latest the city has gotten a new budget.
“On behalf of the whole City Council, we would also like to thank you, Mount Vernon, for your patience and support all along the way,” Council President Wallace shares with BW. “With the budget passed, we can once again focus on building upon our City’s great legacy of talent, initiative, and hard work. With your help, Mount Vernon will be a city on the rise.”
No matter, who you believe, voted for or support, the process only works if all our elected officials work together. When they do not, it doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong, the residents are the losers everytime.
Stay tuned to Black Westchester for more on this developing story.