Yonkers’ Financial Options Hezitorial
An Ongoing Series of Options to Avert the Unresolved Financial Crisis from Haunting the Taxpayer Again Next Year
The Yonkers Tribune will begin an introspective exploration that can lead the City of Yonkers (CoY) to future fiscal health. In so doing, both the Executive Branch of government, Mayor Mike Spano, and the Legislative Branch of government, comprising the seven members of the Yonkers City Council must not only work toward serving the public interest, that is, the taxpayer, but also find resolution to the bloated, unsustainable “family and friends network” that has failed the majority, serving the chosen minority who are financially rewarded for towing the “political directives” of the powers that be. On that issue alone, let us not unhinge our minds by spewing political dogma to undermine those who adhere to one or the other.
Yonkers has long accepted that it is unique among many municipalities, akin to the likes of Donnie and Marie, a little bit of Country, and a little bit of Rock’n Roll, but in political terms, that is, a little bit Republican and a little bit Democrat, “Republicrat” if you will.
So what happened over the course of the recently truncated scrutiny of Mayor Mike Spano’s FY2018-2019 Proposed Budget that won approval despite a major lack of understanding by the Yonkers City Council membership. The seven members were individually and collectively ignorant of their crucial role to oversee the budget. Their lack of understanding the neglected demands of Yonkersites, vis-a-vis their ignorance of prudent fiscal practice became evident by their unanimous vote of approval of the budget. Those who sat on the 2018 City Council included three veterans who neither afforded themselves or the attending / viewing public an opportunity to understand the complex and interconnected financial concerns that demanded balance within and about each issue. They didn’t understand the budget or the process. Whether the protagonists working for the Executive and those working on behalf of the Legislative admit it or not, they have each failed to some degree or another. In fact, the debauched outcome is an abysmal failure because it has cost the taxpayer dearly, when the taxpayer was not, and is not the cause of the problem, despite the fact that the taxpayer is burdened by compensating the errors and lack of judgment among all the protagonists involved.
Rather than meaningless, superfluous, and repetitious praise of Commissioners, Department heads, auditors, among other ancillary experts, those who asked the questions, in many cases fed to them by others astute in the process, were evidently deficient in comprehending the enormity of issues that demanded knowledge to which most were simply ignorant, and thereby dropped inquiry because their intent was to grandstand with pithy questions that revealed no purpose for being asked, revealing instead that Yonkers still clings to believing that knowledge can be eclipsed by those who believe their earnestness to “do good” can be eclipsed by on the job training. Last I checked, the sophistication and complexity of 2018 has moved beyond the provincial concepts acceptable to those from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Yonkersites are sufficiently astute to know that our elected and appointed officials have failed CoY.
Yonkers Tribune has learned that Mayor Mike Spano had suggested a 10 percent cut across the board among all employees where it could be accomplished under legal and contractual means. When it is recognized that CoY’s payroll is $700 million, a 10 percent shaving off the top would have realized a $70 million saving which would have relieved the city of the threat of over 400 plus employees losing their employment, and would also have relieved the need to wipe out the fund balance.
Recognizing that every $3,500,000 is equivalent to a 1 percent tax increase, it follows that the reverse is also true. Taking the $70 million in saving by cutting salaries 10 per cent across the board and dividing that sum by $3.5 million would realize a 20 percent tax reduction exacted on salary savings alone. If however, you wanted to reduce salaries across the board by only 5 percent, there would be a reduction in salaries equivalent to a reduction of 10 percent in tax outlay. The collective “wisdom” of the Yonkers City Council did not recognize this issue choosing to instead increase the taxpayer’s burden by 6.2 percent, as well as cause the loss of STAR credits to seniors living on fixed incomes who can ill afford such an increase added on top of their lost STAR funding allocation.
Then there is the issue of revaluation of personal and commercial real estate that were last assessed over 50 years ago. The cost of personal and commercial real estate valuation challenges are known as tax certiorari. Tax certiorari cost CoY $20 million last year alone. Worse still, because CoY is always short of funds, CoY bonds the cost of tax certiorari challenges that grow every year when this can come to an end upon the completion of a reassessment of property. The $20 million in tax certiorari challenges would come to a sudden halt, and save the taxpayer the yearly burden of paying the equivalent of a 5.71 percent tax when it could easily have been avoided. In fact if the 6.2 percent tax was reduces by the 5.71 percent savings for not having an annual burden of $20 million in tax certiorari challenges, it would would reduce the tax to only 0.49 percent, staying well under the 2 percent tax cap, and thereby permitting the STAR credits to have been gained rather than lost this year. The fact that one hears so many suggesting that it is seniors who would be most affected by a revaluation because they are on a fixed income, did not seem to come to mind or matter to the Yonkers City Councilmembers when they unanimously voted to increase the tax burden by 6.2 percent and also denied the STAR program allocation to seniors that for homeowners is equivalent to almost $600, and co-op residents about $100.
It is said that revaluation of all whose personal and commercial properties are assessed, to either pay less equivalent to 1/3 of all assessed, while another 1/3 will pay the same, and 1/3 will pay more. There are remedies for issues that some propose are harmful by revaluations. They can be remedied, but I do not want to stray off the issues before us presently.
There is also no rationale whatsoever for any City Councilmember to get a free car, insurance, and reduced gas. Considering that they each earn at minimum $100,000 per annum which includes benefits, including medical, can they not each afford to lease a car for $100 per month, get a federal tax deduction for travel necessary to attend functions in their respective districts, like everyone else. Furthermore, it is inappropriate to supply police of sergeant rank and higher to be given a car so they can drive within the boundaries of Yonkers or the many who even travel beyond Westchester County. And reduced gasoline costs afforded CoY must not be given as a benefit either.
Overtime is a perk that must be expunged altogether; this is pertinent where you have emergency services that must operate around the clock , moving from one shift to another. This is a supervisory responsibility that must be defined to not permit any overtime for any reason other that saving life and/or property, and only with a sign-off from the supervisor, and not permitted to be overlooked or changed even as a directive from the mayor as is the practice presently.
Future salaries for all services presently permitting a starting salary eventually accrue in time to a maximum level. That must be the only pensionable sum. Any amount of overtime required and approved cannot be pensionable at all.
Truth be told, if those who have been pension padding for the last 6 years, every year, to the tune of 60 hours overtime every two weeks have accrued earnings that easily exceed $250,000 to $300,000, allowing retirement at half those earning as their pension.
Additionally, why does the Office of the Inspector General exist? The cost is just shy of $1 million per year. What has that office produced worthy of such costs? Reports are not issued or divulged!
There are issues among the Department of Public Works as well. Then there is the nepotism engaged in employing family members of former and present Yonkers City Councilmembers.
Civil Service exams are not adhered to. all to maintain a “friends and family network” intact.
BS jobs like that of a liaison between the Mayor and the City Council are pointless other than to employ favored “insiders”. Perhaps the Yonkers City Councilmembership should all meet at the Mayors Conference room to learn of each other’s sensibilities and concerns once a month.
Let us not forget the no show, and little show jobs employing “friends and family”.
It all adds up to a lot of taxpayer money.
Those delineated above fall under the city “side” of the equation.
SPECIAL NOTE: There are many more solutions. Share your ideas and concepts and prove the efficacy of your assertions in the comment section. Do not engage any commenters by demeaning them or ridiculing them. Express complete thoughts to validate your perspective. Let us try to create an adult and informed understanding of what can be done and must be done to remedy the one shot “deal” that will likely not come about again.
if you concur with someone’s thinking, say so. If you do not, explain it so that we can all become enlightened to the issues. If no, please note in advance that the comment will be thrown into the Yonkers Tribune SPAM box never to come out again. if, for whatever reason anyone cannot abide by these parameters over the article and the one that will follow about education next week, please bypass leaving a comment. I trust Yonkersites will reveal worthy concepts that can be engaged now or in the near future.Let’s do this!
Next week, we delve into the Yonkers Board of Education. Millions to be saved there as well!