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Yonkers taps experts as $72M deficit looms

Facing a $72 million budget deficit next fiscal year, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano has formed a special commission to find out how bad the city's finances are and come up with recommendations for bridging the projected shortfall.

The commission will be led by former Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch and former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, both of whom have experience fixing big-city financial problems. Four other members are expected to be added in coming days.

The Democratic mayor said the commission will propose short- and long-term recommendations for fixing the city's chronic financial woes. He has requested a preliminary report before he presents his proposed 2012-13 budget to the city council April 15.

"We face a monumental budget crisis, and the first step in a fiscally healthy city is a sound diagnosis of its fiscal condition," he told Newsday. "When I entered office just two months ago, it immediately became obvious to me that Yonkers' fiscal situation is far more complex -- and more dire -- than any of us could have imagined."

Spano attributes most of the projected revenue shortfall to rising pension costs, state mandates and declining tax revenues.

To bridge the shortfall, he is considering a hiring freeze and other measures but expects the commission will come up with proposals for additional cuts, some of which are likely to be unpopular with union leaders and others.

"The day of reckoning is here, and there will be no easy fix," Spano said.

He said the commission will report any suspected corruption that might have led to the city's financial woes, but he added that he doesn't want the inquiry to become a political witch hunt.

Spano's brother, former GOP state Sen. Nicholas Spano, who represented Yonkers, admitted in February that he falsified his taxes. Sandy Annabi, a former city councilwoman, was convicted of conspiracy, bribery and extortion on March 29 for taking bribes to change her vote on a retail development project in the city.

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