Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy has vetoed the budget his Democratic colleagues spent weeks rewriting.
He made the decision late Friday afternoon after calling for and then canceling a meeting with Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo and City Council President Denise Brucker.
The decision left the council with no idea why he vetoed it. McCarthy said before the veto that he did not want to explain his reasons.
He said he had “a number” of concerns about the budget.
“I’m surprised there weren’t more issues raised,” he said.
After his veto, he did not respond to requests for an explanation.
The council could override a veto with five votes and save the budget it approved last week. However, with Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard still recovering from a medical problem in a rehabilitation hospital, there are only six council members available for a vote. If McCarthy can persuade two of them not to override, his original budget would go into effect.
Perazzo and Brucker said they might support his veto.
“We’ll see what happens. I’m going to talk to him,” Brucker said. “I want to hear what his concerns are. It depends on his concerns.”
Perazzo added that some of the council’s changes to the budget were “really good.” But, she said, she wouldn’t immediately oppose a veto.
“I think before [an override vote] I would want to know why the mayor wanted to veto it,” she said. “I would want to hear what his reasoning was.”
She added that she hoped there was room for compromise in the veto-override process.
“I don’t know the process,” she said, “but [the mayor’s concerns] may be a very minor reason that we’d be willing to come to terms with.”
Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who just won election to a full term Tuesday, said she had not been informed of the possible veto.
“But I’m going to call him now,” she said, adding that she preferred the council’s budget to the mayor’s original proposal.
In a veto-override situation, the only two choices would be to accept the mayor’s original budget or override to keep the council’s final budget. However, council members retain the authority to make adjustments to the budget at any time, so alterations could be made after a vote.
The approved budget is what is used to set the tax rate. If the city reverts to the mayor’s original budget and alterations are not made immediately, taxpayers will see a tax increase of 4.1 percent. The council’s budget has a tax increase of 1.7 percent.
Councilman Vince Riggi, the only non-Democrat on the council, said he would vote to override a veto even though he voted against the council’s budget. He said he had wanted further cuts to the budget, but would rather have a 1.7 percent tax increase than a 4.1 percent increase.
“It’s certainly better for the taxpayers than 4.1,” he said.
Riggi added that he wasn’t happy with apparent padding in the mayor’s original budget. Vehicle leases were overstated, he claimed, and other expenses were pegged to rise more than the trend for the last few years.
“There’s no way that can be justified, particularly the leases,” Riggi said. “I’m not happy with the [mayor’s] budget as it was because we were not told the truth.”
The council reduced those items to what fired Budget Analyst Jason Cuthbert had said was a reasonable amount. Cuthbert worked on the budget with both Riggi and Councilman Carl Eriksen, the finance committee chairman, and almost all of his proposals were incorporated into the final budget.
Cuthbert worked behind the scenes after being fired after publicly disagreeing with the mayor on the city-county sales tax agreement. Cuthbert argued the new contract would hurt the city; McCarthy said it was the best deal possible for both the city and the county.