Port Jervis News...

Issue 8— September 17, 2020

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Port Jervis Appears Headed For Austerity Budget


PORT JERVIS — Proposed Local Law 3 of 2020 has been defeated for a second time after a tense debate in the city's common council, a possible permanent defeat for the tax cap override law as the new city budget approaches.
After two defeats of the ordinance, it appears that the Tri-State's only city, where people are struggling economically during the pandemic, would enact an austerity budget.
A second public hearing on the proposed law was held at the latest common council meeting this past Monday night. The law was first voted upon on July 27. After suffering a defeat the first time it was up for vote, the law was put back up for another public hearing in another attempt to pass it before the new city budget is crafted.
"Please understand to the public that you are going to see major cuts in our next budget," said Mayor Kelly Decker after the law was defeated on July 27. "And I am not making any threats here. The people that have voted no here tonight have cost many people their jobs. And for you to have services by the city."
The proposed local law would allow the city to have a tax cap override. It would prevent the city from facing financial penalties from the State of New York if they failed to make it under the tax cap set by the state. It's supporters on the council say that without the law in place it could cause budgetary issues in the future, jeopardizing a number of planned city projects. As well as services throughout the city.
"Why is it that we as council people want to inhibit the growth of our city and our tax base increase?" asked Councilwoman at Large Lisa Randazzo. "If we know there is an opportunity, a solid opportunity to do stuff, anyone with a financial backgrounds knows that you ought to do that."
After a vicious back and forth where a lot of issues were brought up, the council voted 5-4 in favor of the law. Despite a majority being present to support adopting the law, the law needed a super majority in favor of it in order to pass. For the second time in less than two months, the law was defeated.
4th Ward Councilmen Tim Simmons and Stanley Siegel both voted no on the law. 2nd Ward Councilwomen Maria Mann and Chandler Campbell also voted no on passing the law. Siegel has been one of the fiercest critics, arguing that it jeopardizes the well being of his constituents by potentially creating an environment for out of control spending and tax increases.
"The other side of the picture is all the constituents," said Siegel. "Tim and I come from the poorest ward. Where people are struggling. They are people who don't have jobs, who live on limited incomes and that may lose their homes. They simply cannot afford a tax increase.
"When the majority of the people that speak to me, my constituents, tell me to vote no ... I can't vote based on how I feel. I have to vote based on how my constituents are directing me."
While time is not necessarily out on adopting the law, there is little room left between adopting the law and adopting the new city budget for the upcoming year. Corporation Counsel William Frank spoke at the meeting about when the exact deadline would be for adopting the proposed law.
Frank has stated that the local law can be adopted right up until the meeting where the budget is adopted. However, he says this is not a desirable outcome since it will leave no time to allow the budget to be crafted with the tax cap override in place. Although legal to do so, he does not recommend passing it at the very last minute.
"If the council is going to adopt the override law, it should be done as soon as possible in order to have planning for the budget," Frank said. "The leeway to have some variations in the proposed budget... it is important to know that leeway exists during the preparation process. Not at the last minute."