Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration was unsuccessful, again, in securing City Council approval for a temporary budget, heightening the chances for a government shutdown.
Council members voted 6-3 to reject the temporary spending measure on Tuesday night. Council members are at odds with Sayegh over excessive spending and delays in introduction of a full-year budget.
“A budget has to be introduced by April by law,” said council president Flavio Rivera. He pointed out Sayegh, while serving as a councilman, voted down a temporary budget in 2015.
Business administrator Kathleen Long appeared to blame the City Council for delays in presenting an introduced budget. She said her team was ready to present an introduced budget in April. She said the uncertainty around the sewer utility – whether it would be repealed or kept – caused the delay.
“It’s completely disingenuous to suggest our CFO or myself don’t know what the laws are about this,” said Long. “We couldn’t follow the rules because of the unpredictability of whether the sewer utility was going to exist.”
Council members balked at approving the temporary budget last week. Rivera suggested reducing the spending measure from two months to a single month. Sayegh administration officials agreed to seek appropriations just for June.
“I have mixed feelings on this situation,” said councilman Luis Velez.
Council members Al Abdelaziz, Ruby Cotton, Lilisa Mimms voted in favor of approving the temporary budget while Maritza Davila, Michael Jackson, Shahin Khalique, Alex Mendez, Velez, and Rivera voted against.
Sayegh introduced a budget at the beginning of Tuesday night’s workshop meeting. He was not present when the council rejected the temporary spending measure. He engaged in testy exchanges with half of the City Council members that are often critical of his agenda.
“Our employees deserve to be paid for the work they perform. Rejecting a temporary budget is reckless because it will create unnecessary hardship for our workers and could lead to a government shutdown,” said Sayegh on Wednesday morning.
“Back then he was concerned about tax increases. Now we are concerned about the reckless spending without improvement in services,” said Rivera on Wednesday morning.
Jackson said Sayegh brought a “disrespectful attitude” to the meeting. Sayegh’s aggressive exchanges earlier in the meeting did not help his team to secure approval for the emergency spending measure.
Without an approved spending measure, Sayegh will have to shutdown the municipal government.
Updated 10:59 a.m.