Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone released a press release this afternoon asking the City Council to hurry up and take action on a financing scheme that could deliver up to $20 million to the Yonkers Public Schools.
Amicone is proposing that the city create a Transitional Finance Authority, something that requires approval by the state legislature. The City Council held a hearing last night on the topic, the latest in a series of meetings about this authority.
The council took no action last night and some council members may travel to Albany next week to discuss the matter with officials from the state Comptrollers Office and with the city’s state delegation. The city charter requires the City Council to adopt a budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year by June 1.
The currently proposed budget includes more than 700 layoffs in the schools to close a $42 million gap.
Meanwhile, the council’s Republicans issued a press release of their own calling for “shared sacrifice,” which means city workers accepting a 5% pay cut, a wage freeze and a freeze in city contributions to union welfare funds.
Here are copies of Amicone’s and the council Republicans’ statements:Mayor Urges Council Action on Plan to Save School District
Creation of Transitional Finance Authority Would Net $20 Million For Yonkers Schools In Crisis
Yonkers, N.Y. (May 27, 2011) Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone has submitted a revised plan to the City Council that would help avert hundreds of layoffs and program cuts at the Yonkers Public Schools by creating a Transitional Finance Authority (TFA), allowing the city to restructure some of its debt and free up $20 million that would go the Board of Education in the FY 2012 Budget.
The revised plan incorporates all the recommended changes made by councilmembers over the past two weeks, mainly ensuring that the city’s legislative body maintains its control over issuing debt. All seven councilmembers would be part of the TFA under the new proposal.
“We have listened to the City Council’s concerns and have addressed them in full. Now it’s time for the Council to act, and they must act quickly. Hundreds of jobs and the future of the school system are at stake,” Mayor Amicone said.
Amicone sent a memo to the Council (see below) with the revised legislation on Thursday afternoon. He is asking for a vote as soon as possible because approvals for the TFA must still be obtained by the State Legislature, which goes into summer recess on June 20.
“We are literally racing against the clock. There are only 10 working days left in the state capital and we must still clear several hurdles. Local City Council approval is imperative as soon as possible in order to move this plan forward. Otherwise, the draconian cuts approved by the Board of Education will go into effect.”
“The only other alternative recommended by the City Council’s own budget consultant is to raise taxes on our property owners by double digits and maximize the income tax surcharge. I will not support either measure, especially when we have a plan that could work without inflicting pain on our taxpayers,” Amicone concluded.
As Mayor Amicone said, several hurdles remain. Even if the city establishes a TFA and is able to produce $20 million for the school district, that measure would only cut the Board of Education deficit in half. It would still be facing a $22 million budget gap. Amicone has repeatedly called for the school district unions to meet the city half-way in closing the gap.
But the most immediate measure is City Council action on the revised legislation. Read the mayor’s memo to the Council in full below.
[MAYOR AMICONE MEMO TO CITY COUNCIL]
May 26, 2011
Hon. Council Members:
Yesterday afternoon I forwarded the latest DRAFT of proposed State Legislation that would create a Yonkers Transitional Finance Authority (“TFA”). As I mentioned in the forwarding e-mail all of your concerns/requests as well as those of the Staff of the State Comptroller, have now been addressed.
In order to put this Authority in place and produce up to $20 million — which would be used to avoid a significant number of the proposed school-side layoffs without imposing an additional property tax burden and/or income tax surcharge burden on our residents — a number of separate, but related actions, need to take place both by your Council and the State Legislature and the Governor.
As you know, the State Legislature’s ‘Session Calendar’ is very rapidly coming to a close. In fact, while the State Legislature’s last ‘Session Day’ is Monday, June 20, 2011, they are only in ‘Session’ for ten (10) of those days —
Wednesday, June 1, 2011;
Thursday, June 2, 2011;
Monday, June 6, 2011;
Tuesday, June 7, 2011;
Monday, June 13, 2011;
Tuesday, June 14, 2011;
Wednesday, June 15, 2011;
Thursday, June 16, 2011;
Friday, June 17, 2011; and
Monday, June 20, 2011.
If the City of Yonkers is to create the TFA in time to save hundreds of ‘school-side’ jobs a number of things need to be accomplished during this period of time:
1. The City Council needs to take an affirmative vote on a Resolution requesting that the State Legislature introduce respective bills establishing the TFA;
2. After the Resolution is adopted and signed into law it must be hand carried to Albany to our Delegation, the Leaders of Both Houses and to the State Comptroller;
3. The DRAFT State Bill must be reviewed by the Staff of both the Senate and the Assembly and then introduced as ‘same as’ bills given Senate and Assembly numbers;
4. Once numbers are assigned in both the Senate and the Assembly the City Council needs to pass a Home Rule Request Resolution (Message);
5. After the Home Rule Request Resolution (message) is adopted and signed into law it must be hand carried to Albany to our Delegation, the Leaders of Both Houses and to the State Comptroller;
6. During this period of time, the bill must ‘age’ on the desk of the members for three (days);
7. Both the Senate and the Assembly must pass the bill.
8. And, just as important, although not part of the Legislative Process, the bill needs to be signed into law before the Comptroller can certify the FY11-12 City Budget.
To say the least, time is of the essence! Based on the required steps that are outlined above, City Council action on the Resolution requesting the introduction of State Legislation to establish the TFA must take place by Wednesday, June 1, 2011. Any delay beyond this date makes it extremely unlikely that the City will have State Legislative authority to establish the TFA prior to the end of this year’s State ‘Legislative Session’ and, therefore, the opportunity to save a significant number of ‘school side’ jobs — without imposing an additional property tax burden and/or income tax surcharge burden on our residents — will have eluded us.