Councilman William McKoy voted in favor of every municipal budget over the past 18 years. 14 times he supported budgets that raised property taxes, according to a review of his budget votes for almost the past two decades.
McKoy voted to raise taxes in fiscal years 2003 through 2016. He also voted in favor of budgets that either kept the tax levy the same or decreased it 3 times – 2001, 2002, 2017 — during his tenure, according to budget vote records.
“We’re a distressed city. We have to strike a budget to operate,” said McKoy when asked about his budget votes. “Do you want to reduce fire? Do you want to reduce police? Do you want to not collect garbage? There are hard choices to be made. As a council person your obligation is to make sure the city moves forward and I think I’ve done that responsibly over the years.”
McKoy pointed to the layoff of 125 police officers that negatively affected police response time. Police have yet to recover from that layoff.
McKoy’s opponents have been criticizing him for voting for tax hikes. Councilman Andre Sayegh attacked him earlier in the month for voting for the more than 25-percent tax hike in 2011. In that fiscal year, the tax levy jumped from $104 to 131 million, according to budget records.
“People lost their homes. People lost their shirts. Numbers don’t lie. His irresponsible voting record speaks for itself. He is not a friend to the Paterson taxpayer,” said Sayegh. “He has rubber stamped all of the tax increases.”
Sayegh called him McKoy “Mr. Automatic Tax Increase” pointing out the longtime councilman also supported former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ recreation tax. “He fought me when I fought against the recreation tax,” he said.
Sayegh also has voted for tax hikes. He voted for 2009 and 2010 budgets that contained tax increases.
“It is hypocritical,” said McKoy when told of Sayegh’s two past tax increase votes.
Sayegh was new on the council at the time, he said. He later learned to better take apart the budget, he said. He voted against six budgets that had tax increases from 2011 through 2016.
Both McKoy and Sayegh supported the fiscal 2017 budget that decreased taxes.
Councilman Michael Jackson said council members have to use their votes to hold the administration accountable when it comes to spending before the budget vote. He voted for the 2016 budget that had a tax hike. He also voted against the 2017 budget that had a tax levy decrease.
Former school board member Pedro Rodriguez views both Sayegh and McKoy as “part of the problem not the solution.”
“That’s why we need to bring new energy, new vision, and a new plan for Paterson,” said Rodriguez. He said he will conduct a forensic audit of the city if elected mayor.
Rodriguez was one of the key supporters of Torres’ recreation tax. When asked about his support of the rec. tax, he said, Torres had told him the amount raised using the recreation levy would have been subtracted from the budget.
“Whatever the recreation tax would have gotten. He was going to deduct it from the general fund,” said Rodriguez. “Even though it’s a new tax it would not be a tax increase.”
Torres was unsuccessful in selling his new tax to voters.
Rodriguez said the purpose of the rec. tax was to protect recreation funding from cuts the same way the library levy protects the libraries from cuts.
Mendez voted for the fiscal year 2015 budget that had a tax increase. He was absent during the fiscal year 2016 budget vote. And voted in favor of the fiscal year 2017 budget that had a levy decrease.
Mendez did not return a call for comment on Monday morning.
“It’s not as if we’re choosing to increase taxes, we’re forced into tax increases because our tax base does not support our operations,” said McKoy, who is the longest serving member of the council. He said he plans to stabilize taxes by minimizing lawsuits, cutting waste, reducing overtime, and better managing municipal expenses.