Budget Progress: $2.1 million in Cuts Gain Council Approval
Thursday, October 4, 2012 • 11:07pm
PATERSON, NJ – By cutting $2.1 million from the police and fire departments, city finance officials gained the support of enough City Council members Thursday night to introduce Paterson’s 2013 budget in time to meet the state’s October 5 deadline for applying for Transition Aid.
The cuts still leave the budget with a 9.97 percent increase in the municipal tax levy. But state law will only allow a 3.6 percent hike. To bring the budget in within the state limit, city officials will have to cut another $8.5 million before they finalize the spending plan, officials said.
“Right now, can I tell you where those monies are? No, I cannot,’’ Business Administrator Charles Thomas said to the city council during its emergency budget meeting.
But the cuts outlined Thursday night were enough to convince two council members who had voted against introducing the budget last Friday night – William McKoy and Rigo Rodriguez – to change their votes.
“You came in as close to double digits as you could, but technically it’s still in the single digit range,’’ McKoy said of the tax increase under the introduced budget.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, said he would continue to hound the administration to make sure the budget does not have a tax increase of more than 3.6 percent.
By introducing the budget, the city can now apply for state transition aid. Last year, the Christie administration provided Paterson $21 million in transition aid.
The city council’s finance chairman, Kenneth Morris, cast the only vote against the preliminary budget. Morris said several factors, including declining revenues, convinced him that the administration would not be able to make the necessary cuts in the final budget.
“Cost-cutting should have started at the beginning of the year,’’ said Morris.
Most of the $2.1 million in public safety savings unveiled Thursday night stemmed from the elimination of vacant positions and the postponement of promotions.
Officials scheduled a public hearing on the budget for November 8.