Peekskill officials are scheduled to vote on next year’s budget during tonight’s special Common Council meeting.
The latest proposal, which was unveiled by the Peekskill Common Council Monday, proposes a general fund budget of $35.4 million general fund. In addition, about $1.28 million has been budgeted for the city's sewer fund, $7.9 million for Section 8 and $6.6 million for the water fund.
The spending plan represents a 3.82 percent tax levy increase and the average taxpayer would pay about $73 a year more in taxes.
The plan also calls for 18 layoffs, the merger of payroll and personnel finance functions, the preservation of full time at the Kiley Center the city's pre-school and recreation programs. The city’s planning, economic development, building and code enforcement departments and clerical staff would also be combined.
In addition to the layoffs, 11 other city workers are taking part in an early retirement incentive program that was offered.
“We have taken, very seriously, the budget message that was presented to us by the city manager and as I know we’re hearing throughout the county, these continue to be very pressing and difficult budget times for everybody,” Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster said during Monday’s Common Council meeting. “And I want to praise the staff for having worked very hard to get us where we are right now.”
Regardless of what number the Common Council approves tonight, it’s unlikely the budget will receive universal praise from residents.
Resident George Ondek called Foster and Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton tax and spend liberals during Monday’s public hearing on the budget. He believes the city is having financial difficulties because the mayor has had too many pet projects over the years.
“It’s because you have an utopian idea of what you think Peekskill should be is why we’re in this mess that we’re in and it appears that you’re bankrupting us,” Ondek said. “We’re having to let 29 hard working people go and that’s on your heads.”
Leesther Brown, another city resident, questioned the Council’s decision to eliminate jobs during the budget process. She brought up one woman who held a part-time position in the city’s Youth Bureau.
“This young lady, who has been burned out, now has no job, who lifted herself up from the welfare rolls and everything else now has no job,” Brown said. “Burned out of her house [with] nothing. Did you guys consider that—these are real people with real families and real issues.”
Darrell Davis, leader of the Committee for Justice, said the Council didn’t do an adequate job of finding other revenue streams to help during this latest budget crunch.
“I don’t know why, before you started chopping, you didn’t empower citizens or other elected officials to make sure money came through,” Davis said. “Peekskill is a small city. You weren’t talking about a whole lot of money.”
Jay Dresser, a park ranger in the city, said his job duties also included traffic control, meter collection and other support roles for the police department. He was informed that his was being cut the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving.
“Last year alone, I wrote 2,300 tickets,” Dresser said as he made one last appeal for his job Monday. “I would think that alone would cover the cost of my job. That’s revenue for the city.”
Tonight’s special meeting is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. inside Peekskill city hall. A copy of the resolution can be found in the PDF attached to this story.