Mayor Ed Pawlowski has vetoed the proposed 2017 budget passed by City Council. Council is scheduled to meet this evening to take a vote to override the mayor's veto.
Mayor Pawlowski's veto message to City Council follows...
To: The Honorable Ray O’Connell, Council President
And Members of City Council
From: Mayor Ed Pawlowski
Date: December 12, 2016
Transmitted 11:50 p.m.
On November 30th 2016, City Council passed a series of budget amendments which enacted broad-based budgetary cuts to city operations and violated Allentown’s Home Rule Charter in numerous ways.
Over the course of the past several weeks I have attempted to reach out to members of city council to discuss ways that we could mutually work together to address the current budget impasse and avoid possible litigation in court on council's violations of the City Charter.
I have tried to negotiate a compromise that provided the funds necessary to deliver proper city services and rectify charter violations. But for negotiations to be truly meaningful there needs to be a process of give and take, not just demands, and I have become frustrated by the lack of compromise demonstrated by council’s leadership.
I am quite frankly surprised and dismayed by the lack of foresight which council has demonstrated with these amendments.
The approach taken with these amendments was one of applying a paintball shooter to a kids’ coloring book; broad based budgetary cuts applied without any consideration of how they would impact city functions and the lives of city residents.
Also, as mayor, I cannot sit back while the city's home rule charter is violated and ignored.
The charter is not the Mayor’s document or a City Council document but the people's document. It was voted on and approved by the citizens of this city.
The actions taken by City Council through these amendments constitute a direct infringement of the Home Rule charter as it deals with personnel issues and budgetary procedures.
It is for these reasons that I am vetoing budget Bill 75 and it's related amendments.
Let me outline in more depth the my rationale for this veto action.
10% of Premium Pay
The budgetary cuts as enacted by council will have a dramatic impact on public safety throughout the city. Here are the outcomes that will occur as a result of council’s cuts.
For 2017 the proposed overtime budget for police is $1,800,000. A cut of 10% is $180,000 and would give the department a budget of $1,620,000.
Premium pay is used for various assignments and investigations, and it is frequently used to address specific patterns of violent crime. Based on past usage, the allocated amount of $1,800,000 is an appropriate amount to cover the police department’s premium pay requirements. Anything less than that would have a clear impact on crime rates, risk the safety of our officers and citizens, reduce the amount of proactive policing services we can provide, and have an overall detrimental effect on the department’s mission.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that with the salary increases granted with the recent arbitration award, $1.8 million in premium pay in 2017 will be stretched thin, and reducing it by an additional 10% would unquestionably set-up the police department for failure.
Fire is currently required to have 25 staff on duty per shift. The members that are off for vacation, military, job injury, or death in the family are replaced with overtime personnel.
With the current complement of 122 members, overtime is needed to fill the daily required roster of on duty personnel.
Taking into consideration cuts already made to the fire premium account in 2016 and adding in the additional 2% pay raise for union members makes the amount budgeted by council with its cuts unattainable.
Cutting the premium pay account will impact the fire departments hiring to replace personnel which will cause the city to be in violation of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation uses overtime for the following:
• Weekend trash collection and rest room cleaning
• Special events, including Movies in the Park and summer concerts, volunteer clean-ups, etc.
• Watering flower bowls and islands in Center City
• Pool and park maintenance emergency call outs
• Snow removal
• Police coverage at pools and in parks during the summer
Cut outlined in council’s amendments will significantly impact city services.
Restrooms and parks will be dirtier; repair calls for pools and parks would go longer before being addressed; patron and employee experiences that resulted in the need for police support at pools will be more unpleasant and potentially unsafe; and park users will find their enjoyment of our parks affected by the increasing number of people who do not follow park rules.
Public Works has lowered its Premium Pay (06) by 13% from 2016 in the proposed 2017 budget. Council’s proposed reduction of an additional 10% across the board will affect necessary planned weekend work in high traffic/business-retail areas.
The weekend work is necessary to minimize disruption to the traveling public and businesses. Examples of projects that need the flexibility of weekend work are: the 2017 paving program, installation of LED street lights, storm sewer installations and improvements to city facilities.
If this work must be completed during normal business hours, it will result in traffic congestion, irritable business owners and constraints for city staff completing normal operational work. This will also reduce the total amount of work that should be completed during the 2017 fiscal year and cause scheduling issues in 2018.
Also the bulk of the overtime in Public Works is spent on snow removal activities and a cut of this nature would dramatically impact this program in a negative way.
Overtime is used heavily by the health bureau for inspections of food at special events on weekends. It is also used by building standards for emergency inspections (i.e.: fires, sink holes, etc).
10% of Professional Services
A blanket 10% cut across the board for all professional services is not practical or feasible. We have no “fluff” and there is nothing we can do without to ensure the safety and legality in city operations.
The term “contract” indicates these are signed agreements that cannot be arbitrarily decreased. Let me outline the impacts.
The total budgeted amount of our professional services (46) account is $526,856. The vast majority of that is related to the Crossing Guard contract with All City Management. The contract is $433,000/year which City Council unanimously voted on and approved. Ten percent of that contract alone is $43,000.
One of the line items in our (46) account is our highly successful and popular Citizens Police Academy. In today’s society where there is a divide between police and the communities they serve, programs like these are extremely important. The department has taken great strides to establish positive relations with our community and it is because of programs such as these. In 2016 we doubled the number of participants in the academy, and we expect a high turnout in 2017 as well. Any cut here would be a disservice to the citizens of Allentown.
Finally, $9,000 of this account is a council-mandated donation to the Fire Police.
The 10% reduction in this account will impact the following:
• Aerial Ladder testing which is required every year per NFPA, the absence of which would be a serious safety violation.
• Ground Ladder testing which is required every year per NFPA, the absence of which would be a serious safety violation.
• Drug Screenings, the absence of which violates the CBA
• Matching AFG grant funds which would not allow the department to accept grants which over the past 3 years have secured more than $1.5 million in needed equipment
• Medical Command Fees – Medcom used to contact hospitals with patient reports and to contact a doctor for medical direction
• emsCharts – Patient Care Reporting software is a legally required documentation and contracted service. Continuity of records from past years is a necessity.
• E-pro Scheduler – Used to maintain complex schedule and cover open shifts, submit vacations, and generate payroll report for Eden entry
• Zoll Billing – Software used to generate bills that complies with Federal guidelines
• Medical Director Fee – Required by state law to have a medical director to function as an EMS agency
• Bio-Haz Service – Required contract to dispose of biohazard waste as per EPA guidelines
• Gateway Billing Clearinghouse – Required to bill Medicaid programs for service
• Medication Vending System – Support agreement to maintain machine that secures and tracks controlled substances as per DEA regulations
Parks and Recreation
Cuts to Contracted / Professional Services in Parks and Recreation will impact many services that are either mandated, required or important, such as:
• Changing out banners that hang throughout the city
• Pool drain compliance improvements that are required by the
• Federal government
• Wildlife management contracts
• Lake and pond treatment contracts
• WPA wall repairs
• Fuel tank inspections
• Marketing and advertising of city special events
Also are affected are recreation programs, including the Summer Playground program, adult and youth basketball, volleyball and baseball, summer concerts, summers staff training and background checks and pool programming such as the Water Safety Palooza, and teen dance parties, etc.
Contracted services at the Golf Course includes:
• The new golf cart lease,
• Golf reservation software, internet service
• Event tent rental, including set up and break down.
Cuts to this category will impact golfers, employees and the quality-of-life experience at the course that we are working so hard to improve.
A large portion of the funds in DCED go for marketing, special events and to the Allentown chamber for the administration of the downtown Main Street program, under council's proposed cuts, these will need to be eliminated.
Council’s proposed across the board cuts throughout each department include cutting legal consultation fees in the Office of Compliance for the Federal NPDES permit; if the city becomes non-compliant, the city could face daily fines from the EPA and DEP of up to $89,000/per day. Additionally, any reduction to the Storm water MS4 contractual service fees will put Allentown in jeopardy of compliance and subject the city to fines of similar magnitude.
Our Engineering Bureau, will not be able to complete all citizen survey services, such as new curb and sidewalk installations required under the city’s curb & sidewalk program. With the proportional reduction in the number of curb & sidewalks installed under the 2017 curb & sidewalk program, fewer streets will be able to be paved under the 2017 Street reconstruction program. The survey contract also provides services relating to the installation of storm water inlets and pipes.
One of the most dramatic implications of these reductions will be fewer fleet vehicles serviced and repaired under the City’s Fleet Maintenance contract. If required to reduce $222,452 (10%) the city will be forced to remove approximately 60-80 vehicles from the city’s current fleet maintenance contract and re-negotiate contract terms with our service provider. Per council’s directive to reduce across the board, this will necessarily result in proportionally reducing police vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances and equipment/plow trucks. While I think you would agree that servicing our city fleet is a priority and necessary for public safety, there is no way that we can make the required cuts without also cutting the fleet contract.
Along with the fleet maintenance reductions, another casualty of these cuts to the Streets Bureau will be a reduction in equipment repairs and the inability to pay for refined AccuWeather advance adverse weather warnings; this service currently provides us with weather alerts and advice for upcoming weather (rain, high winds, and snow).
The Department of Public Works has just acquired the Technical Services Bureau. A 10% reduction would affect 1 of 2 contracts: FCC communications coordination or building safety. Under our current regulation with the FCC, if they were to request coordination and we were not to complete that task, we would lose our radio frequency privileges to include Police, Fire & EMS radio systems. The 2nd contract item relates to employee safety, as to floor mats that were requested from HR.
The reduction in Building Maintenance will affect the health & safety of all who work in and/or visit city-owned buildings. Sprinkler inspections, generator preventative maintenance, access control system preventative maintenance, state-mandated elevator services, emergency cell block cleaning in the PSB and any HVAC chiller maintenance are among the many services that must be completed. The 2017 budget included long overdue updates to the automation of the City Hall HVAC system. The current software is no longer supported and we run the risk of having a system that we can no longer control.
Along with a decrease in the line painting contract, pole restorations (after knock downs from vehicle accidents) and pole maintenance requirements a reduction in the (46) account for Traffic Planning & Control will also have an effect on the grant applications which leverage additional funding available to the city. Not completing line painting as required could make the city negligent/at fault for any accidents that may occur on city roadways. Cutting funding for grant applications would be short sighted and would cut off a potential revenue stream to continue to improve the city.
Salary Reductions and Cuts
The cuts proposed by council through it’s amendments devalue the hard work of our city staff. The administration takes detailed input from department heads as it relates to any increases in salary. Job functions, increased duties, performance and marketplace comparisons are all factors leading to these proposed increases. To blankly remove them without ever seeking clarification or understanding the reasons behind these proposals is shortsighted.
Also I am not sure how council arrived upon this dollar amount of $60,000 for a compensation study, without any justification for the study or estimates it's cost.
City Council passed several budget amendments infringing upon the executive discretion of the office of the Mayor. The intention, as expressed by City Counsel, is a violation of the Home Rule Charter on several fronts.
Hiring Procedures and Practices
Council’s budget amendment to eliminate a section of the 2017 budget appendix entitled Non-Bargaining Wage Range, stating that the intent of council is that these are annual budgeted salaries that cannot be increased except by ordinance can only be seen as a step into executive discretion by council in the approval of non-bargaining hires.
It seems that council is trying to rewrite the Home Rule Charter through the budgetary process.
In Section 308, subsection N of the Charter it states the Mayor's duties as follows; Appoint, suspend or remove any City employee, except as otherwise provided by this Charter or by law, and unless otherwise provided, be responsible for the employment of personnel necessary for the effective operation of city government.
Also in Section 209 of the Charter and Section 115.09 of the Administrative Code Subsection E, it states under Council Prohibitions the following: Neither the Council nor any of its Members shall, in any manner, dictate the appointment or removal of any City administrative offices or employees whom the Mayor or subordinates of the Mayor are empowered to appoint except as otherwise provided in this Charter. (Art. II, §209; 13423 §1 10/24/96)
Apart from the fact that it would be impossible to perform the hiring process without a salary wage scale, I believe that City Council is in essence attempting to change the form of government outlined in the Charter by seeking to approve every hire by ordinance and thus micromanaging the employment process and negating Section 308 N of the Home Rule Charter.
This action would squarely place City Council in violation of section 209 E by attempting to dictate the appointment or removal of any city administrative offices or employees whom the Mayor or subordinates of the Mayor are empowered to appoint.
Finally, removal of salary for the positions of managing director and top two positions in DCED leaves a thoughtless leadership vacuum that will cripple the city’s operations and economic development efforts. In a time when we are seeing unprecedented growth and development this action is shortsighted and ludicrous. The action flies in the face of council’s approval of a more than 15% increase in salary for the managing director in the 2015 budget.
As with council’s attempt to eliminate the Non-Bargaining Wage Range of the budget, City Council is in essence attempting to change the form of government outlined in the Charter by seeking to micromanage the employment process and negating Section 308 N of the Home Rule Charter.
In Section 805 Subsection B of the Charter it states, if the amended Budget increases, decreases or readjusts funding requirements by more than five (5%) percent, or adds or deletes a program, the Budget shall be returned to the Mayor immediately for comment and resubmission to the Council within three (3) normal City work days.
In the budget, Program 07-0604 and Program 09-0901 contain only the salaries of the Managing Director and DCED Operations Manager respectively. By reducing these salaries to $1.00, I believe City Council is in fact eliminating these programs, thus activating the budget resubmission provision outlined in Section 805 of the Charter.
Subsequent to amending the Budget as aforesaid on November 30, 2016, City Council notified my office on December 2, 2016, of the amendments that had been adopted.
In accordance with Section 805, I resubmitted a Budget to the Council within 3 normal city workdays, on December 7, 2016.
City Council met on December 7, 2016, at 7 PM, and during the meeting acknowledged that it had received the resubmitted Budget as of 4:00 PM that same day.
Although acknowledging the timely receipt of the resubmitted Budget by my office, City Council did not discuss, vote on, or adopt the resubmitted Budget but rather ignored it completely and again passed the Budget as they had chosen to amend it on November 30, 2016.
The Home Rule Charter provides that Council shall provide for another public hearing to be held within 5 days after the Mayor has resubmitted the budget.
By having no public hearing after being provided the resubmitted Budget, City Council violated the intent and the spirit of the requirement of the home rule charter.
As I have previously stated, I have tried numerous times to reach out to members of City Council and negotiate a compromise to no avail.
Even though I am vetoing the budget, I am still open to discuss the above impacts anytime and create a compromise that will best serve the city and its residents.
Mayor Ed Pawlowski