MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Although Mount Vernon officials are overwhelmingly behind in their budget process, city officials couldn’t come together during Friday’s Board of Estimate and Contracts meeting, which saw councilwoman Debra Reynolds ejected from the building.
It was a circus-like atmosphere at City Hall, with in-fighting between elected officials, a constant, anxious, murmur from those in attendance and frustrated residents airing out their grievances to the board over the proposed budget, which represents a 7.78 percent property tax hike.
Tempers came to a head toward the end of the meeting, when Reynolds was escorted by police after speaking out of turn over children’s safety at the YMCA.
While Mount Vernon Corporation Counsel Nichelle Johnson was speaking in favor of the YMCA, Reynolds burst out several times, despite warning from Mayor Ernest Davis to let the speaker finish, warning her that “this isn’t the city council, I will have you escorted out.”
“There are pedophiles around the corner from that building. If there are pedophiles near that building, it will not be,” she proclaimed over both Davis and Johnson’s protestation. She was subsequently escorted from the room by two police officers to a rousing round of applause while shouting, “You should be escorted from here for raising our taxes!”
Following Reynolds’ outburst, the meeting descended into chaos, with several residents shouting vitriol at the board and each other over the budget and Davis’ treatment of Reynolds.
The meeting was formally adjourned when an employee of the school district lambasted Davis and his regime, calling it corrupt. A separate resident promptly took to the microphone in defense of Davis, and the two had a heated argument that needed to be broken up by police.
“This meeting was called to bring light and there are some people in this community who are designed not to hear anything positive, but to be disruptive,” Davis said when the acrimony was quelled. “I will not run a meeting with them in it. They will be removed any time I have a session that is disrupted to people who honestly want information.”
Last week, Davis presented a $96,090,198 budget for 2014, citing the ever-increasing cost of unfunded mandates as the reasoning behind the delays and property tax increase.
According to the timeline determined by Mount Vernon’s own officials, a budget is supposed to be proposed to the Board of Estimates and Contracts by the middle of September, and it is to be adopted no later than Dec. 5. This year, Mayor Ernest Davis’ proposed $96 million budget was presented on Jan. 10.
“You heard a lot about tax caps and all of that. The reason we cannot have the tax cap the way the governor said is because of state mandates,” Davis said. “All of the [combined mandates] causes us to scramble and try to bring some creativity to the budget.”