During an emergency meeting Monday evening, the city council approved a $50 million spending measure averting imminent government shutdown.
Council members in a 6-1 vote approved the temporary budget for December and January.
Two councilmen Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward, and Alex Mendez, at-large, changed their votes to allow for the adoption of the spending measure which remained the same as it was last Tuesday.
Mendez abstained and Akhtaruzzaman voted against the spending measure last week. “I have no problem approving a budget, but just a decreased one,” said Akhtaruzzaman. “Whatever we do, we have to cut the budget.”
Mendez said mayor Jose “Joey” Torres on Monday morning assured him there will be cuts. “We need to reduce expenses,” said Mendez. “We cannot keep spending money we don’t have.”
Torres has been conducting outreach to collect the six needed votes to see the temporary budget pass the council since it failed last week.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, maintained his position, casting the sole vote against. “I can’t in good conscious vote for this temporary budget appropriation,” he said.
Sayegh said he had every intention to support the temporary spending measure if he saw a good faith effort by the mayor to reduce spending and increase revenue through economic development. “Right now that’s not occurring. The only source we keep going to for revenue is the taxpayer. And they are tapped out,” he said.
Many have said the administration is not doing enough to rein in spending. Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, who voted against the temporary budget last week, was absent because he teaches on Mondays.
The city has been operating through a series of temporary budgets since the start of the fiscal year. From July through November the city expended $101 million, according to city records.
By the end of January it will have spent $151 million, according to city records.
The city’s entire budget last fiscal year was $252.6 million, according to municipal budget records.
The city’s fiscal year 2016 introduced budget is $283.2 million.
Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman, who also opposed the measure, was also not in attendance during the emergency meeting.
Prior to the council’s vote about half-dozen public works employees came to share the hardship that would befall them without pay. Business administrator Nellie Pou had said the city would not be able to make payroll on Friday without temporary appropriations.
“The work already has been done. To tell a man he won’t be paid is a slap in the face,” said Michael Jackson, president of the union that represents blue collar public works employees. He said public works employees live paycheck to paycheck and would fall on hardship without their pay.
“I couldn’t imagine what would be the case if our police officer decided not to come to work because they are not being paid,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman.