Thursday, Mayor Thomas and several of his commissioners, including Brett Erasmus, the Commissioner of Management Services, held a press conference to discuss the budget for 2019. Mayor Thomas has been suggesting over and over that his budget results in “only” a 2.69% increase in your property taxes. This is just outright false, a “bait-and-switch” tactic designed to fool the taxpayers of Mount Vernon. As I will quickly point out below, his budget actually represents an outrageous increase of 10.68%. This is what happens when you can’t or won’t control spending.
First, Mayor Thomas’ budget expert agrees with the City Council that the “Appropriated Fund Balance” line item of $3.75 million cannot and should not be included in the Mayor’s budget projections for 2019. Mr. Erasmus was described by Mayor Thomas as “one of the leading financial experts in the country” and, maybe, “the planet.” So, let’s take Mr. Erasmus and his MBA from New York University at his word for the time-being. He stated in the press conference, “the Fund Balance is a problem” and the “City Council says we cannot [include it in the budget]… And, that’s fair enough. I tend to agree with that.” Taking just that line item out of the budget, by the way, results in a total increase to your taxes of 9.00%. But, it doesn’t end there.
Second, Mayor Thomas’ budget continues to claim “revenue” to the City from the Water Department, budgeted at another $1.0 million for 2019. Note, it was budgeted for $1.3 million in 2018 and $1.0 million in 2017. How much money has actually been transferred to the City by Mayor Thomas and the Water Department? $0.00. Nothing. Until Mayor Thomas actually moves money over from his “slush fund” in the Water Department, this item of “revenue” has to come out of his budget, too. It’s just an accounting trick to let him spend another million of your tax dollars. When you take that revenue item out, Mayor Thomas’ proposed increase in your taxes is 10.68% for 2019. Almost exactly 8% more than he wants you to believe.
A change of two simple facts, which neither Mayor Thomas nor his budget expert can deny or explain away, give you the REAL picture of what Mayor Thomas’ 2019 budget actually looks like. If he wants the City Council to pass a responsible budget, then he needs to submit one. And, that is probably going to involve making some hard choices on the spending side.
That’s the thing about numbers. You can give as many press conferences as you want. But, the numbers will give away the facts. And, the fact is that Mayor Thomas is not being honest with the people of Mount Vernon. He can blame the Comptroller and the City Council all he wants, but his own numbers tell the story. And, his own expert agrees.
If you have thoughts or comments about this issue or any other, reach out to me at ADWCMV@gmail.com.