Adding more confusion to the city budget issue, the board of aldermen Monday night chose to ask the state attorney-general to rule whether or not the common council had acted properly when it voted on the proposed city budget last week.
The aldermen put aside a legal ruling by City Solicitor Colleen Mejia, which had declared that the council “acted legally and properly”.
Mejia ruled that the councilors, in effect, intended to restore $687,611 in cuts that the aldermen had originally made two weeks ago.
The council supported $259,986 of the $947,579 in cuts that the alder-men made.
It is the council’s contention – backed up by the city solicitor – that the budget “passed” by the council, including the funds it restored, is now before the aldermen for finalizing action.
However, Ald. Chuck DiPerri took issue with Mejia’s ruling at Monday night’s aldermanic session, claiming that the common council – rather than passing an amended version of the budget, as Mejia contends – had technically voted against the budget and reconsideration of the matter failed on a roll call vote.
Thus, DiPerri maintains that at this stage – because of the council’s mishandling of the matter – there is actually no budget proposal before either legislative body.
“There is no budget for us to take action on,” insisted the Ward Four alderman.
The council’s version of the budget was on the aldermen’s agenda Monday night, and when it came up DiPerri objected and invoked Rule 10, which killed any chance that it could be acted upon.
The city solicitor admitted that a “convoluted” atmosphere existed at the common council meeting, but she insisted that “I’m sure of their intent”, even though she acknowledged that the city clerk disagrees with her on this issue.
DiPerri also strongly disagreed with her, asserting that the “intent” of the councilors was at best “unclear”.
The alderman stressed that no one on the council made a motion to specifically take a vote just on the cuts made by the board of aldermen.
“They never took the cuts as a separate item,” said the veteran city legislator.
Ald. Robert Van Campen said if the city solicitor’s ruling is proved to be wrong, “the budget is a dead issue”.
On a voice vote, the aldermen passed a motion asking the state attorney general for a ruling on the legality of the common council’s vote on the budget.
The aldermen asked for a quick decision because time is of the essence as the city faces a fast approaching deadline to put a city budget in place.
If the AG rules that the common council invalidated the budget process, as the majority of the aldermen believe, the mayor could resubmit his original budget.
It would have to be considered, votes on cuts would have to be made and the final product would have to be approved by both legislative bodies within the next two weeks.
If a budget isn’t passed by the council and aldermen by the June 29 deadline, Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s budget, as originally submitted to the city council – with no cuts – would automatically become the city’s operating budget for FY13, which starts on July 1, 2012.