BA Promises New Budget Cuts Before Special Meeting on Thursday
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 • 9:56am
PATERSON, NJ – Business administrator Charles Thomas said finance officials will reduce Paterson’s preliminary budget so that the percentage of the proposed tax increase is less than double-digits by Thursday night’s special City Council meeting.
The cuts are designed to convince the council to introduce the budget in time for Paterson to submit its Transition Aid application to Trenton by Friday’s revised deadline. Missing the deadline could put Paterson in jeopardy of losing as much as $21 million in precious state aid that everyone agrees is needed for the city to avert a budget crisis.
Last Friday night, the council refused to approve a preliminary budget that included an 11.5 percent tax increase, despite protestations from administration officials who promised the tax levy would be reduced significantly before the budget becomes final.
“It’s really an ongoing budget and there’s daily work towards reducing that increase to a reasonable level,’’ said Thomas.
But City Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris expressed skepticism about the administration’s promises of cuts. “I’m not going for any smoke-and-mirrors budget,’’ Morris said. “I don’t want to see a budget that has cuts just to get our approval and they aren’t real cuts.’’
Thomas said a new state law wouldn’t allow the city to impose an 11.5 percent tax increase even if officials wanted to do so.
The city’s budget struggles prompted a conference call on Tuesday between representatives of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and three council members – Morris, Council President Anthony Davis and Councilman William McKoy.
“They talked about their frustrations and we talked about our frustrations,’’ said Davis, who said the meeting took an hour and 40 minutes. “They shouldn’t be frustrated. We’re the ones who should be frustrated.’’
“It’s a stubborn issue,’’ McKoy said of Paterson’s financial troubles.
Davis and McKoy said the state officials were surprised to hear that the administration had proposed an 11.5 percent tax hike. Davis said the state indicated that an increase of about six percent would be considered more acceptable. But Thomas said there was no reason for the state to be surprised by the proposed hike because the city administration has kept the DCA informed of the progress of the budget.
Under an ongoing agreement covering the transition aid that the DCA provides to Paterson, the state has a certain degree of control over municipal finances, including hiring decisions, new contracts and travel and entertainment spending.