No Compromise Reached on Port 2018 Budget

PORT JERVIS, N.Y. — In a vote Wed., Dec. 27 the Port Jervis Common Council approved a final budget for the fiscal year 2018.

Possible Next Steps: 
  • Conducting an audit
  • Maintaining maximum budget transparency throughout the year
  • Releasing a budget proposal prior to elections
  • Repealing Local Law #9 of 2017 that created the Contingency Budget

Passing, 6 to 3, at 8.13%, no additional compromises were made. Not even the agreeable across-the-board two percent pay increase cap, mentioned in this previous article. Rendering the last meeting of the seven workshops, moot.

Maria Mann in a short speech, prior to voting, summed up the situation thus far::

“I am still voting no because no changes or compromises were made. I explained my reasoning at length at the last vote. I’ve offered some suggestions on ways to reduce the budget and they were not incorporated into this plan. Not one change has been made since our last vote. I’ve only met resistance that fell upon deaf ears. I am not voting no to support an 11 percent increase. I am voting no because I feel there is room in this budget to be crunched regardless of even if it is a fraction of a percent.”

Mann was not the only councilperson that felt that they were not heard. Stanley Siegel expressed a very similar statement before his vote. While having “no additional comment” at the vote, Gina Fitzpatrick, commenting the next day, said this to YourPortJervisIsShowing:

“I felt my decision would not have changed the outcome. Maria & my voices were not heard anyway. I wish I stuck with my no and didn’t give in. No one was willing to work at changing things except Lisa [Randazzo]. Everyone had their mind made up, the first vote. Also, I didn’t want it to go to the contingency budget of 11%. I was disappointed and left there ASAP because of it. I hope things change in 2018.”

In making her position clear before her “yes” vote, Kristin Trovei had this to say at the end of her comment about shaving off decimals from the budget, having had missed the previous meeting’s agreeable cap:

“In order to reduce the budget we’d have to do layoffs or we’d have to eliminate some type of program or service that the city currently offers.”

No programs or services were ended. No cuts were made to pay increases for non-contractual, hourly city employees. And no jobs were cut either.

Mayor Kelly Decker noted that had a budget been passed with layoffs, he would have vetoed it stating that he would rather see positions cut through “attrition (retirement)” or “lateral moves” such as moving employees to other staff vacancies. Therefore without cuts this year, the city moves along with the Mayor’s maverick Five-Year Strategic Plan that has increased the city’s taxes nearly 30 percent and is highly anticipated in revitalizing the municipality.

The meeting ended after goodbyes as Sarah Hendry announced that she would no longer be on the Council. Her “no” vote having been maintained, when asked why she was resigning as Councilperson, Hendry said that government wasn’t for her. Her city contemporaries nevertheless lauded her abilities as an investigative representative who even to the end stuck by what was best for her constituents.

Present for the vote was 2017 Fourth Ward candidate Jill Lindner. During public comment, she spoke out against the heavy increase, indicating common issues for residents of the Ward.  Similarly, in a discussion online, financial analyst consulting at Morgan Stanley’s Global Financial Crimes Unit and 2017 candidate, Zoe Valdez in a conversation with Fourth Ward residents and councilperson Siegel, had this to say about the budget:

“Anyway, just so we’re all clear, every council member is accountable for the 2018 budget! Whether they voted “yes” or “no”!!!  We literally have the same Council members we’ve had over the last 4 + years, they should have been fully aware of every issue with those numbers! Corrections and adjustments should have been proposed and made a while ago, not a few weeks before final approval. They need to represent us daily by being on top of things, not just only when it’s time to vote!”

More concisely, this is what came about in online discussion:
  • More transparency in the budget is needed throughout the year: not waiting until after elections to release a proposal
  • Conducting a full, perhaps forensic, audit must take place
  • Drafting a law to repeal the incendiary amendment to Section C4-7 of the Port Jervis City Charter: Local Law 9 of 2017, is on the table.  The amendment added a clause for a Contingency Budget, which Wed. totaled 11.1 percent, and residents feel was used to
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