Mayor Williams Calls Budget Amendments Unconstitutional; Considers Budget Veto

Posted on  05/15/2013 4:06 pm

Mayor Dennis P. Williams believes the City Council Finance Committee's proposed amendments to the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget are potentially unconstitutional; and the arbitrary cuts may adversely impact City services. The Williams Administration worked diligently to propose a budget with no property tax increase, no layoffs, no cuts to public safety and no reduction in City services.

"It is no easy task to avoid a projected 15% property tax increase and layoffs, but I am determined not to place that burden on our citizens and employees," said Mayor Williams. "Council's proposal initiates a layoff by eliminating the currently occupied Deputy Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation position."

This unprecedented action is believed to overstep Council's legislative boundaries, as it is an encroachment into responsibilities specifically vested within the executive branch.

"The hypocrisy of deleting this position is in direct contrast to Council's stated goal and commitment to youth," said Chief of Staff, John R. Matlusky. "The position is critical to departmental operations, particularly those targeted to address the needs of the young people."

Mayor Williams was also perplexed by Council's request to add $250,000 to their budget for unspecified programs. According to City Solicitor, Michael P. Migliore, under the doctrine of separation of powers, the legislative branch makes laws and appropriates funding, while the executive branch has the responsibility for administering the funds. This action could be unconstitutional.

"Frankly, I have concerns about an unspecified Council-controlled fund that will be administered by Council," said Mayor Williams.

Matlusky further asserts Council's request for a quarter-million dollars for unspecified programs nearly matches the $300,000 held in contingency, for emergency and unforeseen expenditures for the entire City. He suggests a vague pot of money with no accountability could be likened to a slush fund.

In response to their request for a Council-controlled fund, the Administration proposed a compromise which moves $55,000 to Council's budget for grants, with the remaining $195,000 ($15,000 per Council Member) to be assigned in the appropriate City departments for programs and initiatives to service their specific districts. This proposal was rejected by Council by the Finance Committee.

"As further demonstration of the Mayor's willingness to compromise, the proposed $20,884 in salary adjustments for appointed staff have been removed," said Matlusky.

"My administration has made every effort to compromise and we remain open to continued discussion; however, Council's proposed budget, would leave me no option but to veto," said Mayor Williams. "I believe that members of Council have the best interests of our citizens, and that we will find common ground for the benefit of those we serve."