Monticello faces budget woes
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO July 26, 2013 The Village of Monticello will apparently be stuck with a mistake-riddled budget for the new fiscal year beginning August 1.
With the July 1 budget adoption deadline having come and gone, and not even a single public hearing on the spending plan held, the village will be stuck with the May 21 “tentative” budget that calls for 8.9 percent water and sewer fund rate increases, and an 8 percent increase in both residential and dumpster sanitation fees. Property taxes will see a three percent increase.
A July 23 email from Village Clerk Janine Gandy to Mayor Gordon Jenkins and the board, advises that, “after several conversations with NYCOM [New York State Conference of Mayors] yesterday and this morning, because the Board has failed to pass the 2013-2014 budget by the July 1 deadline, the tentative budget that was presented to you all on May 21, 2013 becomes the budget for the new fiscal year.”
Gandy went on to inform the board that there was no-longer a need to schedule a public hearing regarding the budget as “… the May 21 tentative budget stands as it is, errors and all.”
As far as sticking the village with an unfinalized fiscal budget, Jenkins wondered, “What’s wrong with a three percent budget?” “The county’s at about nine percent and I’ve seen a lot higher with other municipalities, so I don’t understand the big deal with this.”
Jenkins blamed the board’s ineptitude to conflicting personal and work schedules. “People have jobs and sometimes can’t make work sessions, budget hearings and the such,” he offered. “I need at least three people [board members] present at meetings and on the 16th it was just me and Larissa [Trustee Larissa Bennett]. I could work [for the village] 24-hours-a-day and I’m open for anything with all the time in the world for meetings, but I can’t force anyone to attend meetings and workshops.”
And the longstanding rift between the mayor and Village Trustee Carmen Rue continues, with the mayor alleging, “What’s gotta happen is Carmen needs to stop with her nonsense. I truly believe that she wants this village and government to fail… she’s vicious and seems to want the village to fail. I talk to her every day and she just refuses to work with me and continues to put out inaccurate accusations in the paper. She’s had problems with the former manager, has caused our treasurer to resign, and now she’s taken issue with our new account manager [Lilu Li] . . . how can we work together when nothing satisfies her?”
Asked if the village’s bills will be paid, Jenkins replied, “The bills won’t be paid because she [Rue] won’t even attend a meeting or even work with me on fixing this. It seems her agenda is more based on personal feelings than doing what’s right… I’ve tried everything and she’s never happy. What do I do?”
As for Rue: “First of all, he’s [Jenkins] a liar,” she offered. “He never asked to set up any meetings with me and he does not talk to me every day or at all about village business. The mayor wants a puppet. I sit on this board to represent the taxpayers and the village. The mayor wants us [the board] to do whatever he wants and when I say ‘no, that’s wrong, you can’t do that,’ he doesn’t want to hear it.”
Speaking in the third person, Rue affirmed, “Carmen Rue follows the law. That’s the problem here. He [Jenkins] wants to do what’s good for Gordon and repay the Chinese (Jenkins made a widely reported trip to China last summer) by hiring a Chinese ‘account manager’ [Lilu Li] who doesn’t even live in this county. He’s wrong and he’s not only failed this board, but also the village and its taxpayers.”
As for the budget, Rue said, “I spoke with the state and the budget to go into effect will not be the one from May 21, it will actually be the budget with the very latest corrections from June 28. Again, this mayor/acting manager has failed the people.”
Regarding Village Clerk Janine Gandy, Rue explained, “She said she certified the tentative budget with the treasury on May 21. I never saw that budget, nor did the other board members, until our first June board meeting on the 4th. It’s not up to the clerk, it’s up to the board what to do, and the mayor has an obligation to present the board with the tentative budget. He never did that until the first week in June.”
In a related development, Jenkins told the Democrat that he’s mulling appointing someone to fill the board seat vacated July 11 with the conviction of former Village Trustee TC Hutchins on two felony counts in his corruption trial.
“I need someone who is willing to work with me. Enough is enough,” Jenkins said.
Asked if he had anyone in mind, Jenkins said he in fact did, but would not offer anymore information. “I’m very seriously considering doing it [the board seat appointment] on Monday,” he said.
The village will hold what’s billed as a special meeting on Monday, July 29 at 6 p.m. The public is invited.