The administration of Mayor Tony Mack will introduce its FY2013 budget to city council on Tuesday, September 25. It appears that the Mayor has instructed his finance staff and the Business Administrator to budget once again for a fully funded, fully staffed Department of Recreation, Natural Resources and Culture.
How do we know?
We know because this press release was posted on the city website on Monday, September 24. It is directed at both the city council and the general public. It declares the Mayor's intention to run a first rate, top-drawer recreation program that will provide something for everyone. It challenges the will of the city's governing body to be fiscally prudent by asking them to fully fund the Mayor's pipe dream. Mostly, it is aimed at rehabilitating the Mayor's tarnished and dented image as he tries to extricate himself from the pending federal corruption charges.
Mayor Mack should be ashamed of himself for this outrageous posturing and posing.
If Mr. Hutchinson didn't advise against this, then he should be ashamed of himself, too. He was brought in to serve the public as the city's BA. If he can't or won't put this city on a course of responsible budgeting, he is not the right man for the job.
Therefore, that leaves it up to the city council to put some severe controls on the Mayor's proposed spending.
As soon as is legally possible the city council needs to cut the proposed RNRC budget to the bare essentials.
Because Mayor Mack has proven that he is incapable of following a budget, purchasing procedures or any rules at all.
The city entered into its usual contract with Buoy 98 Marine to maintain, install and monitor the floating docks that flank the city boat ramp on Lamberton Road. The city paid $7,000 for this service. However, the docks were never installed. We went the entire boating season without docks installed, but paid for their installation, monitoring and repair AND charged boaters the full fee to use the ramp anyway. Why were the docks not installed? I don't know. You might want to ask Mayor Mack that. Or one of his key staff members, like Trenton Water Works Stock Clerk Paul Harris.
My guess is that none of Mack's crack staff ever thought to contact the Buoy 98 Marine and direct them to install.
While you are asking questions, you might want to inquire about the $17,400 paid to a sound and light contractor to provide his services for a music festival that never occurred this summer. To be fair, TWW Stock Clerk Paul Harris did send an email to the vendor asking for a refund of the money because the festival was cancelled. However, the email had an error in the address so we don't know if it was ever corrected and resent. Nor do we know if the vendor, assuming he was contacted, returned the money or not.
When it comes to sports leagues, the city has a long-standing practice of contributing money to them. This continued under Mack with a few twists. Whereas all city baseball leagues appear to have received money from the city, one...the Trenton Babe Ruth League...got more than the rest. Documents show that all the leagues received $3500 except the TBRL. That league, the one the Mayor's son plays in and the Mayor and his Brother coach in, received at least $5,000.
We have mentioned before the $15,793.97 spent on a sound system.
And it's recently become known that the city is paying a contract employee for hours she claimed to have worked even though she appears to have had no contract approved by the city council and there was no money in the account to pay her with. In fact, according to documents received via OPRA request, the council is going to be asked this month to approve a transfer of funds to cover the expenditure made in July; an approval requested after the fact.
The Mayor is asking for funding for the Thanksgiving Parade...an expensive extravagance the city should have given up years ago. We made that case during the Palmer era.
The Mayor also wants full funding for another Heritage Days Festival. In the minutes from a June 2012 meeting with council, Mayor Mack states that the Heritage Day budget was $30,000. Records show the city spent $46,416.49 with vendors to put on the event. There was police, park rangers, EMT's, etc to be paid as well.
Again, we have previously called for the doing away with this city financed event.
In the Press Release the Mayor asks the Council to grant his funding request for the Mayor's Learning Centers. In the year just passed, the Mayor spent $9,874 on 55" Flat Screen TV's, sound bars and mounts for the Learning Centers. The money came from CDBG funds that had been set aside for "improvements to public facilities."
Why doesn't the Mayor earmark the money spent on the folly of the Learning Centers for the Trenton Free Public Library instead?
There were several account overdraws in the Recreation budget last year that the Mayor directed the finance team to "override" in a memo dated June 28, 2012.
So, NO! Council should NOT PASS the Mayor's proposed recreation budget.