The time for posturing is over. While minimizing increases in state taxes, our state legislative delegation has squeezed out every last drop to get us most of the municipal aid that the Mayor had assumed in his April 15 budget proposal. While we are still waiting for the State to finalize its budget with respect to the school budget – and we need their assistance to save full day pre-K from the chopping block – the Mayor needs to recalculate his proposed budget and get it to the council as quickly as possible.
The public comments and discussions between the council members and the administration have led to some revisions from the administration, particularly in the Police department where proposed layoffs of police officers has dropped from 51 to 9. The Mayor has so far failed to recalculate the impact of certain tax revenues coming in lower during the second quarter of the year, and the state aid falling below the number that he had assumed for the budget.
The workers have presented compelling stories as to how cuts in services will adversely affect the City and how layoffs will disrupt their lives. They have presented some ideas for potential tax savings, and like the council members who ask questions, have exposed certain inefficiencies that should be corrected. While no one at City Hall wants to cut services as much as the Mayor has proposed, there has been no movement from either side at the bargaining table between the Mayor and the municipal unions. If leaders on both sides are waiting for the right time to show their cards, that time is now.
We can not just cut our way out of this crisis nor can we just tax our way out. The compromise we craft must include a combination of give-backs and revenues to minimize the cuts of essential service. The taxpayers will not accept additional tax increases without give-backs. It is now up to the City and its unions to partner in a solution. While the unions and the Administration dance around the issue of who should cut their own areas first, let me be clear – it does not matter. Givebacks should be equitable and fair and should apply across the board to everyone – elected and non-elected, represented and non-represented.
Like the families of Yonkers, the city must act more responsibility to safeguard its finances while competently providing basic services to its residents and businesses.
We have no time to waste as this city will run out of money if it does not send out its tax bills by July 15th. The Council Democrats urge the Administration to negotiate around the clock this weekend and present us with a balanced budget on Monday. We can not support an unbalanced budget – that would be fiscally irresponsible. Again, the time for posturing is over.
Chuck Lesnick is the president of the Yonkers City Council