While Newburgh awaits a state comptroller's report on the budget proposed by their city manager, the mayor unveiled her own version, calling it a bold plan for the future of the city. But as YNN's John Wagner reports, the city council is split on which direction to take.
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -- With less than two weeks until Newburgh is required to approve its 2013 budget, a large divide exists on the city council. The city manager and two councilwomen on one side, the mayor and two councilmen on the other.
“When you get your hand bit enough times, you don't hold it out again,” said Mayor Judy Kennedy.
The mayor proposed major changes to the city manager's budget, saying it would make the city safer and more business friendly, adding two police officers, implementing performance reviews, and consolidating city departments.
"The model in the business world is faster, better, cheaper, we need to do it," said Mayor Kennedy.
"We've lost about twenty officers in the past thirty months, and that's hard for me to run a schedule that way and answer our calls for service," said Michael Ferrara, Newburgh police chief.
The mayor offsets the added costs by taking away planned raises for non-union employees, eliminating a number of open positions including a firefighter, and asking the city manager to take a $20,000 cut. The manager says that wouldn't hold up in court and alleges the mayor's numbers are inaccurate.
"The mayor's plan is not balanced, nothing is being consolidated, it is only going to cost you, the taxpayers more money," said Richard Herbek, Newburgh city manager.
With the mayor's plan, the Department of Public Works, Engineering, and Water would merge into a newly created department of city services. The current superintendents would take pay cuts and become deputies under a new commissioner.
"Adding another layer of senior management is not a bold plan but one along with other changes that will create financial devastation," said Herbek.
Her opponents say they weren't consulted and question whether open meetings laws were broken. The mayor firmly denied those allegations, but acknowledged some wrinkles still need to be ironed out and offered to meet anytime to work on a compromise.
"This is not the end all be all, it's step one, but we've got to take those steps and keep taking them if we're going to really do this," said Mayor Kennedy.
It's all got to come together by the budget deadline, November 26th.