It's been three weeks since Peekskill acting City Manager Brian Havranek's $35.6 million budget proposal was made available to the public.
Although the details have been looked at and scrutinized from a number of different angles, questions remained and the anxiety levels were as high as ever during Monday's public hearing on the budget.
“Will you guys please tell me how you will report to your family adn tell them you guys got laid off from your jobs, you can’t pay bills?” Jared Williams, a worker for the city’s Department of Public Works, asked Wednesday night. “Because that’s what everyone in this room is going to have to do.”
Havranek's proposal would cut 31 full-time employees, or 14 percent of the workforce, for a savings of about $2.9 million. Of those 31 positions, seven are currently vacant.
The city tax rate will increase by 6 percent, or about $12.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Havranek said plunging property values along with increased health care and mandated state pension costs are too blame for the city’s budget crisis. The city’s fund balance, which was $12 million in 2008, is projected to be a little more than $6 million in 2013.
That next public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 26, according to Foster. The Common Council has until Dec. 1 to approve the budget.
Diane Blank, who works in the City of Peekskill’s assessor’s office, said her job would be cut under the budget proposal. That would leave the office with only one part-time assessor to deal with the public.
“A lot of people think city employees make too much money,” Bank said. “Does anyone know what it’s like to ride on the back of garbage truck when its 99 degrees or when it’s sub-zero? I understand technology is being considered to replace me. Press one for assessment, press two for finance. How will that help the seniors. Some of them depend on me to mark an X on the line where they have to sign.”
Banks also questioned why the city never made gradual tax increases during the past six years to try and eliminate the need for drastic cuts.
James McNair, a Peekskill resident and city worker, said he still had issues with proposed cuts to two recreation department workers at the Kiley Youth Center He warned that there will be a huge outcry from the community of those job cuts remain the budget.
“Before there’s fire, there’s smoke...If you want something in life you’ve got fight for it,” McNair said. “You’ve got to fight like the people who fought and died in this country to get what they want.You’ve got stand up.”
Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster said the none of the cuts are set in stone and that the common council is still reviewing the budget.
"The council has no plans to close the Kiley Center,” Mayor Foster said. “We will be scheduling a second public hearing on the budget once the council has gone through all our meeting with the department heads and have made recommended adjustments to the budget.”