Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone and his entourage of underlings where taken by surprise Tuesday morning, May 31, 2011, when they learned of Yonkers City Council President and mayoral candidate Chuck Lesnick’s proposed legislation distributed among the entire city council membership on Thursday, May 26, 2011, in which Mr Lesnick called for the imposition of a Control Board. Tactically outmaneuvered by Mr Lesnick’s proposal, City Hall called for a press conference at 1:30 p.m., on May 31st. Mayor Amicone was in attendance, supported in his outrage of Mr Lesnick’s call for a Control Board by Yonkers City Council Minority Leader and mayoral candidate John Murtagh (District 5), Councilman John Larkin (District 6), Dennis Shepherd (District 4), and mayoral candidate Robert Flower. The councilmembers comprise the entire Republican wing of the Legislative Branch of government, while Mr Flower is a Democrat, known to be a political spoiler who has yet to mount a legitimate campaign effort other than talk.
At the Yonkers City Council meeting that took place later that May 31st evening, there was a call among the City Council membership to consolidate the legislation postulating the Transitional Finance Authority (TFA), a financial instrument proposed by Mayor Amicone to bridge a $43 million budget shortfall by the Yonkers Public School District with the proposed legislation calling for the imposition of a Control Board. The initial convening of the Yonkers City Council was called for at 6:00p.m. The effort to transform the two forms of legislation into one instrument would take hours of deliberation. It was 1:15 a.m., June 1, 2011 when the collective effort of the Yonkers City Council membership, under the watchful eye of Yonkers Corporation Counsel Mark Blanchard, Mayoral Aide Anthony Giumbruno, Finance Commissioner Carl Maniscalco, as well as, legal counsel for the Democrats and Republicans.
The TFA, commencing with Yonkers FY2012 was proposed by Mayor Amicone to have a life that was to expire in 2045. The collective meeting of the minds reduced the viability of the Transitional Finance Authority to end by 2015. The TFA concept, proposed with Yonkers specific financial concerns in mind, is a financial instrument and mechanism meant to tap the financial markets at a rate less than the present borrowing standards afforded the City of Yonkers (CoY).
Mayor Amicone had proposed that the TFA would raise the some of $20 million in an effort to close the $43 million budget gap or face the laying off of over 700 school personnel. Mayor Amicone stipulated by affording $20 million against the $43 million deficit CoY would need to gain the support of the Yonkers Federation of Teachers (YFT) who had until recently divulged through President Pat Puleo that the YFT had only $3 million toward assisting the mayor.
Despite Mayor’s Amicone’s expectations of the YFT, among other unions, and there are a total of nine unions active in CoY, there is no known negotiations having taken place between Yonkers City Hall and any of the unions. Neither Mayor Amicone, nor any of his aides have advised if the $20 million raised through the TFA, and the $3 million allegedly to be made available to the administration by the YFT, will surmount the yet to be discovered $20 million shortfall, or even if it is being sought. No matter the final conclusion, if the TFA is adopted, it may solve a monetary shortfall for this year, but leave the financial demands of the Yonkers Public School District devoid of long term resolution. Nor has the administration advised the costs the TFA will impose on the taxpayer over the life of the TFA.
The TFA is also meant to bolster the “means” by which CoY is to prove its fiscal viability and financially balanced budget to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli who is the final arbiter over whether Yonkers Mayor Amicone’s budget proposal is valid.
The Yonkers City Council further included language onto the TFA that would limit overtime pay not to exceed a total annual compensation of $20,000 per person except in emergency situations receiving Department Head certification toward that need and thereafter being affixed with the Mayor’s signature toward that end. Despite the acumen of all those assembled in distilling thoughts and remedies into one instrument that was hand delivered for adoption by the New York State Legislature Wednesday, June 1, 2011, legal issues may, and time restraints may cause the adoption of this legislation to falter.
One major issue is whether Local Law, as written by the Legislative Branch of government, that is, the Yonkers City Council has jurisdiction to insinuate themselves over contractual agreements completed by the strong mayor form of government (mayor Phil Amicone) and the respective union membership.
As it stands now, Mayor Amicone can designate that each respective commissioner of a department adhere to parameters stipulated by the mayor. While stipulating such parameters be adhered, Mayor Amicone has not or cannot control various commissioners from adhering to the parameters he has postulated. Another issue inculcated into the writing has been a wage freeze that would go into affect upon the adoption of the proposed Transitional Finance Authority bonds. There is no legal bite to the wage freeze should its parameters not be met.