MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – The Mount Vernon City Council voted 4-1 Wednesday to approve a 2013 budget agreed upon Monday with Mayor Ernie Davis.
The $93 million budget will raise taxes by 6.15 percent after a compromise was reached to cut expenses throughout city departments. In all, there was a $249,000 reduction – 5 percent – in the signed spending plan. Among the cuts were $15,000 from the travel budget for the mayor's office and elimination of a heating contract, saving $50,000. The city plans to look into privatizing street lighting – which could save nearly $2 million – and into the profitability of composting.
All members of the City Council except council member Deborah Reynolds voted to approve the budget. Reynolds said the council should have waited to adopt the budget as it looked for more cuts.
“We could have done something but decided to close the door and not go any further to reduce it,” Reynolds said. “The public spoke out, and they want relief. We have until the end of the first quarter, so I wish we would have kept discussing it and not vote on it today.”
Council member Karen Watts-Yehudah said she was “extremely disappointed” in the budget, adding that she voted for it because she didn’t want to see the tax increase climb any higher.
“If we fail to enact it at this time, the tax rate will go up,” Watts-Yehudah said. “People that are against it are hurting financially. They can’t afford to stay or leave the city. Every department in the city is affected, but no one spoke in favor of the mayor’s proposal. There is a concern when one person creates a budget and the very administration they put in place don’t speak in favor of it.”
Council members Roberta Apuzzo, J. Yuhanna Edwards and Richard Thomas all expressed dismay at the budget, but voted yes. Apuzzo said it is a very sad time for taxpayers, adding that she and her colleagues also have to pay the tax increase.
“I’m retired on a fixed income but am willing to pay a little bit more for our city services to continue,” Edwards said. “If there are any ways to reduce the budget without taking away services, bring them to the table and we will consider them.”