MOUNT VERNON, NY — April 19, 2021 — On behalf of the City of Mount Vernon, I’d like to thank the New York State Comptroller’s office for its continued efforts to improve the policies and processes of our city’s finance system. The State Comptroller’s review of our budget confirms the challenging conditions under which we were forced to create this year’s budget. My office has been clear. In our 2021 Budget summary, we shared in blistering detail our persistent struggle to obtain historical financial data as a basis for budgetary assumptions and projections. Recognizing that reliable financial information was essential for drafting an accurate estimate, we repeatedly requested detailed accounting statements, profit-and-loss statements, payroll records, operating statements, and other financial documents from the City Comptroller.
Despite our repeated requests, the City Comptroller failed to deliver much of the necessary information. In fact, the State Comptroller’s own report shows how they have struggled to get information from the City Comptroller herself. The subsequent expense and revenue projections reflected the minimal financial reporting provided by the City Comptroller, which included only the 2019 revenue and 2020 expense reports for the first three quarters of the respective years (ending September 30th) and updated information around our debt service, health benefits, insurance premiums, and departmental expenses were only provided by the City Comptroller’s Office after months of request in mid-January 2021.
We were faced with difficult decisions which included: raising taxes by 20%, finding additional revenues or furloughing/laying off between 60-100 employees across public safety and city hall departments. We made assumptions that COVID relief money was on the way and that it would help with closing some of the shortfalls. Therefore, we made assumptions based on the limited data we had received.
Clarity around the city’s true financial state is this administration top priority. It’s why the administration and most of the City Council are on the same side in providing fiscal oversight. It’s why our administration put money in the budget to close out its outstanding audits. In February, the Mount Vernon City Council issued subpoenas to Chase and Sterling in an effort to gain a better understanding of the city’s available resources.
Our administration took the steps to mandate that every department track and report their expenses monthly. We have pledged to release a quarterly report of the finances that we’ve track for this fiscal year and to incorporate the State Comptroller’s recommendations going forward. With the first quarterly report coming out in the next few weeks. While this has usually been done by the City Comptroller’s office, the administration is once again taking the lead on providing financial transparency into how our departments spend taxpayer money. Our office will continue to make the very best decisions possible, based on the limited information we receive from the City Comptroller.