By CLOEY CALLAHAN
The City of Newburgh unanimously passed its 2021 budget on Monday, November 23 during its council meeting. The original budget was proposed by City Manager Joseph Donat on October 13 and there were a handful of changes made for the finalized version.
Revisions for the adopted budget include a part time records manager in the clerks department, a part time deputy police chief position, emergency response pay for superintendents of the Department of Public Works, Water Department and Engineering Department, and the removal of the salary for the introduced chief diversity officer position.
The total general fund is $49,146,430 and the tax levy remains at $22,184,692. The 2021 dollar change for a $150,000 assessed value is at a decrease of $588.19 for homestead and $659.06 for non-homestead.
The council also voted to approve the salary increase for council members and the mayor. Councilman Omari Shakur was the only one who voted no.
Members of the council will receive an annual salary of $12,000 a year, up from their $9,000 a year salary, starting on January 8, 2021. The Mayor will see an increase from $9,000 to $15,000.
According to councilman Anthony Grice, the pay raises will only account for .048 percent of the budget at $24,000, which “still puts us below what all other part time elected officials in New York are making.”
The part time council member positions are set at 12 hours per week. However, councilman Grice said “it’s easily a 40 hour work week after counting meetings, responses and other things.”
Additionally, the council unanimously passed a new local law that will establish term limits for elected officials in the City of Newburgh, which has been a topic of discussion at council meetings for some time. It states that the mayor and council members can only serve three complete consecutive four year terms, meaning no one will serve for more than 12 consecutive years.
Despite noteworthy decisions during the meeting, there was no one signed up for the public comment period, which has been the usual pattern for the remote council meetings.
“Something is wrong with this process,” said Shakur. “Three people told me they tried to sign up for general comments and they didn’t get on.”
Donat said that there was confusion regarding the difference between links to email a public comment in and making a comment during the meeting.
“I will personally make sure that anyone who believes they signed up for this meeting is personally walked through the process and the issue doesn’t exist moving forward,” said Donat.
To speak remotely at upcoming council meetings, all speakers must register by 12 noon on the Monday meeting date by following a Zoom link, which is sent out on the Friday prior to the work session.
Members of the public can also submit comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line reading “PUBLIC COMMENT ITEM” by 12 p.m. on the Monday meeting date.