After seeing their approved budget vetoed, the Mount Vernon City Council pulled a veto of their own, overriding Mayor Richard Thomas’ veto and passing a $112 million with a near 2 percent rise in taxes.
The City Council voted four to one on Wednesday night to uphold a budget that was passed earlier this month, despite protestations and dissent from Thomas. The newly approved spending plan will see the average taxpayer spending approximately $77 more this year. The passage comes after weeks of contention between Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas, Comptroller Deborah and the City Council over the city’s finances.
Councilwoman Janice Duarte was the one to vote against the budget, after calling it “fundamentally flawed” earlier this month. The city is reportedly facing a time and cash crunch, and there have been claims by officials that Mount Vernon may run out of money as soon as next month.
Thomas previously stated that the approved budget "neglects serious, legally mandated obligations like the remediation of Memorial Field, DPW yard, broken bridges and the repairs of our ancient sewers.”
The mayor specifically cited the removal of $3 million payments to the state retirement system for employees; the elimination of six "critical positions, which is a violation of a past court order against eliminating positions;" and the creation of a $50,000 position for Reynolds' grandchild's father.
Although some city officials are feeling relief at the newly passed spending plan, not every Mount Vernon resident is pleased.
Mount Vernon activist Derrickson Lawrence, who has mulled mayoral runs in the past, said that overriding Thomas’ budget veto “does not fix the problem, it exacerbates it.” He called the vote “highly irresponsible.”
“Even under the duress of time -- the rationale given to override the veto - the vote is a highly irresponsible decision for our elected leaders, especially at a time when the state agencies are watching," he said.
“Think about it. The majority of the City Council agrees that the budget is fundamentally flawed. And according to the lone dissenter, Council Woman Janice Duarte, ‘it raises taxes without adequately funding key city’s priorities.’ Additionally, it underfunds pension benefits for a class of the city employees- a deficit that is a glaring omission and has to be resolved by year-end.
“Finally, to go forward with the vote signals an inability of our officials to diligently work through this crisis; worse, to do so without a credible assessment of the city’s cash flow and cash position from the comptroller, is tantamount to willful blindness – a move that will not ingratiate Moody’s or any ratings agency to restore the City’s credit ratings anytime soon.”
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