MOUNT VERNON–When it comes to passing its budget on time, Mount Vernon is making a habit out of cutting it close.
“The clock is ticking,” City Council President Yuhanna Edwards said. “We’re at the 12 o’clock hour.”
For the second consecutive year, the city is nearing its Dec. 31 deadline with no spending plan for the coming year in place. The city passed its 2013 budget two days into the new year. The budget was late the year before, too, when then-mayor Clinton Young was preparing to leave office.
“It’s an irresponsible way of managing resources,” Councilman Rich Thomas said. “It’s simply the wrong way of doing things.”
According to Thomas, Mayor Ernest Davis has not yet presented members of the Board of Estimate and Contract or the City Council with a proposed 2014 budget. With just three weeks left in the year, Thomas said it’s unlikely the city will have enough time to consider and vote on anything the mayor provides.
Davis is expected to meet with members of council Wednesday night. He said he’s hopeful the city can adopt a budget before year’s end. As it stands now, he said, the spending plan his administration is putting together calls for a double-digit increase in the tax rate.
“It’s very tough to bring it (the rate) in at an acceptable level. We’re trying to be realistic about it yet not so onerous that it traumatizes the taxpayers,” Davis said. “We’ve got to pull the rabbits out of the hat on this one.”
Failing to adopt the budget on time could imperil the city’s credit rating and hurt its chances of winning state and federal grants, Thomas said.
“It sends the wrong message to the business community, to the homeowners of Mount Vernon, to our colleagues in government,” he said.
According to Edwards, the council ought to have been presented with a preliminary budget in mid-November, which would have allowed for a public hearing in the first week of December.
“I’ve been pushing for it for months to be on time,” Edwards said, “but for some reason, we’re in the same situation we were in a year ago.”