MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – After weeks of consternation and squabbling, the Mount Vernon City Council struck a 2013 budget deal at "the midnight hour" Monday, agreeing to approve Mayor Ernie Davis’ proposed $93 million budget.
The budget will go into effect on Wednesday.
There will be a 6.15 percent tax-rate hike for residents, and the City Council proposed that it have more involvement with the schools and that the comptroller audit the library.
Davis said the budget crisis was brought on by politics , and the city leadership has to come together to rebuild Mount Vernon.
“We need to educate ourselves. This was a political budget brought on by politics. We all had to do things we didn’t like, but we must understand reality,” he said. “We cannot cut our way to prosperity. We have to send a message: This city is working together."
The mayor continued, noting that Mount Vernon may need to spend if it hopes to dig itself out of the hole in which it finds itself.
“We need to bring people in to develop. That will create jobs and opportunity, but most importantly, it will create a reputation,” Davis said. “No city without basic services will survive. We cannot keep borrowing for an artificial tax rate. We need to hustle day and night to make this work.”
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.
“The real important thing is that we are on the same page. We cannot grow unless we grow together,” Davis said. “The people elected us to operate as efficiently as we can.”
Council member Richard Thomas expressed his pleasure that the pieces fell into place before the new year began.
“It’s a great day to see us come together and reform,” he said. “We will begin 2013 on a positive note.”