Fall River Budget Battle Continues as Council Claims Mayor is Wrong
FALL RIVER — The battle over Fall River's 2022 budget continues, as the City Council president released a statement Monday claiming Mayor Paul Coogan is wrong, and the budget has not been adopted yet after the council rejected it last week.
On Sunday evening, the mayor's office announced that the budget will take effect July 1 despite last week's City Council vote rejecting it, due to the expiration of a 45-day deadline.
The council had voted 6-2 to reject the proposed budget at a June 22 meeting over concerns about the city's financial position as well as a $100,000 line item they said was unexplained.
Councillors plan to meet again for further discussion before the July 1 deadline to adopt the budget or risk a government shutdown or adoption of a 1/12 budget.
But the mayor's office claimed that because the council rejected the budget in its entirety without voting to reduce specific line items, under state law the proposed budget is adopted 45 days after the council received it.
The city council received the mayor's proposed budget on May 11.
"The vote of the City Council last week to reject the entire budget was ineffective in stopping the FY 2022 budget from being enacted," the mayor's press release stated.
On Monday, City Council President Cliff Ponte released a statement calling the mayor's announcement "government by ambush" and enclosed a legal opinion backing the legitimacy of their decision.
"In my opinion, the City Council has authority to reject the entire city budget, except those expenditures required by law," wrote Lauren Goldberg of KP Law, noting that the Mayor will have to present a revised budget to the council before June 30.
"In order to appropriately serve all of the people of the City, the City Council will continue to consider the budget on June 29, and June 30 if necessary," the council's statement read.
City Councillor Michelle Dionne made the motion to reject the budget at last week's meeting.
"I just think that there's just a lot of financial issues," she said.
Other councillors brought up the use of one-time federal pandemic relief funds to fill budget gaps, which they said is unsustainable in the long term.