YONKERS — State Assemblyman Mike Spano on Thursday called for the city to adopt an immediate hiring freeze in light of Moody’s Investors Service’s downgrade of the city’s bond rating.
The rating agency announced Monday that it had slashed its rating on the city’s debt two notches, citing recent budget deficits that have weakened the city’s finances.
In a press release issued by Spano’s campaign, the Democratic mayoral candidate said 50 non-police or fire employees were hired since June — in some cases, when there “may not even have been vacancies.”
Spano blasted City Councilman John Murtagh, his Republican foe in the mayoral race, for what he called a “lack of oversight and leadership, as he watched payrolls climb while the bond rating was sinking.
“Yonkers needs to do what any business would do when they receive this kind of warning from the rating agencies,” Spano said. “Expenses have to be brought in line with revenues, and it has to happen now.”
Spano added: “Councilman Murtagh has allowed city government to act is if it is the days of wine and roses.
“No wonder the ratings agencies are downgrading the city and assigning a negative outlook for the future. The people should be outraged that the city laid off teachers, which our kids desperately need, so they could pad the ranks of City Hall.
“Given the huge budget gap that is looming next year, it is incredible that City Hall is on a hiring spree,” Spano continued. “This is exactly why we need a new way of doing business.”
In a phone interview, Murtagh responded: “There’s an old Ronald Regan line — Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but noone is entitled to their own facts.”
Murtagh said the city council has cut positions from the budget each of the past two years, shrinking the municipal payroll to its lowest number in eight years and only hiring new employees to replace outgoing ones.
“Mr. Spano would like to see positions cuts across the board, except he excludes police and fire — and one has to wonder if he is protecting the unions that endorsed him,” Murtagh continued.
“He calls for a hiring freeze and yet when (Council President) Chuck Lesnick and I took the leadership last spring, and sent legislation to Albany calling for a wage freeze, Mr. Spano, at the request of the unions, killed (it).”
Murtagh also accused the assemblyman of giving union members more favorable pension benefits and cutting aid to the city that could have spared hundreds of teachers from layoffs.
Moody’s cut the city’s general obligation debt rating to Baa1, three notches above junk status, down from A2, its sixth-highest investment-grade rating. It also cut its outlook to negative from stable.
The change likely means Yonkers will have to pay more to borrow.