MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Despite the misgivings of some residents and elected officials, the Mount Vernon City Council has adopted the proposed $96 million budget for the 2014 fiscal year.
The City Council voted 3-2 in favor of the budget at a special meeting, Thursday night, Jan. 30. The budget represents a 7.78 percent property-tax rate increase for residents. This year’s tax rate increase is substantially larger than the 6.15 percent increase that was agreed upon the last two years – much to the consternation of the public.
The budget has been a hot-button issue in the city, with residents and public officials lambasting Mayor Ernest Davis’ budget for its tax increases. Tempers came to a boil two weeks ago when Councilwoman Debra Reynolds was ordered ejected by Davis from a meeting after speaking out of turn.
“It’s baffling to me that our taxes keep going up, but it feels like our quality of life is decreasing on a yearly basis,” resident Paul Haynes said. “Where does all the money go that we’re feeding the city each year?”
Davis, like many of his counterparts throughout Westchester County, continues to be handcuffed by escalating unfunded mandates. This year alone, city employee benefits account for $29.1 million, a 5.4 percent increase from last year ($27.6 million).
Under the proposed budget, the Police Department would receive a small bump in funding for additional overtime and modernization, while the Department of Public Works would receive funds to make repairs to its facility and equipment. The public library stands to be one of the biggest losers under the proposed budget, and would see a $550,000 slash in funding, from $3.35 million to $2.8 million (a 16.4 percent decline in funding).
“I don’t understand how they passed the budget as it’s currently constituted,” Grand Street resident Bob Arnold lamented. “Our taxes keep going up, and yet the value of our property continues to plummet. Until we get some new leadership at the top, I don’t see any end in sight.”
Davis could not be reached for comment on Friday, Jan. 31. The specifics of the now-approved budget can be found here.