Time was running out last Sunday, with just 12 hours to go until the city's midnight deadline to pass its budget. But as the city council and Mayor Eddie A. Perez were stuck in deadlock, the mayor had sudden good news.
He had found $3.2 million in revenue.
But how exactly did that happen?
First, said Perez's spokeswoman Sarah Barr, the city got $850,000 from personal property audits that it hadn't anticipated and "results continue to come in because audits are still being done." Apparently, in fact, on Sunday mornings.
Barr said the city got the rest of the money because it intends to sell property in fiscal year 2010 that it couldn't sell in fiscal year 2009. Barr wouldn't say which properties "because the city doesn't want to jeopardize any transactions."
Okay. But did the city not figure out that the buildings weren't going to sell this year until Sunday morning, as Perez was threatening city residents with a 16-mill increase?
"This is not an 11th-hour rescue," Barr said. "This is a product of changes that occurred between when the mayor proposed a budget back in April to when it was passed by council on the last day of May."
So it's not an 11th-hour rescue, but the mayor didn't tell the city council about the money until deadline day?
"It's good that the city is constantly re-examing the numbers and all the pieces can come into place," Barr said. "All the data was not available at the same time to complete the picture. Information is consistently coming forward."
Matt Ritter, a Democrat on the council who voted for the budget, said he didn't know why the council wasn't made aware of the money until Sunday. Maybe, he said, "it's one way of trying to get your tax increase through without being completely transparent."
"Now that the budget is adopted and we've added that as revenue, it's imperative that we find out where it is that that came from," Ritter said.
Pedro Segarra, a Democrat on the council who voted against the budget, said he's always had a problem with the city's revenue projection.
"One of my biggest disappointments with the budget process was that we were not only castrated, we were blindfolded," said Segarra, who ran the council's budget hearings. Segarra said that, when it comes to the city's revenue projections, "you can't have any comfort level" that the city's numbers are real.
"I think we were gamed from Day 1, before we even got the budget," Segarra said. "But that's my personal opinion."