City Council Rejects Administration’s Three-Month Budget Plan
Monday, July 2, 2012 • 9:12am
PATERSON, NJ – In an attempt to force the administration to expedite Paterson’s next municipal budget, the City Council on Sunday refused to approve a proposal that would have allowed the city to spend $58 million over the next three months.
Instead of adopting a three-month spending plan, the council by unanimous vote agreed to a one-month interim budget with $15 million.
Council members made it clear they would do whatever possible to prevent the city’s budget process from dragging deep into the current 2013 fiscal year, which began on Sunday. In 2011 and 2012, the city operated on a series of temporary budgets and the final versions were not adopted until after about three-quarters of the fiscal years had passed. As a result of the delays, budget cuts the past two years had limited impact because most of the money for those line items already had been spent.
“We said this last year, we said this the year before, we’re not going down this road again,’’ said City Council President Anthony Davis.
“I never see a sense of urgency with regard to the budget process and it is my recommendation we give the administration some,’’ said City Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris.
Budget Director Russell Forenza tried to convince the council that the three-month appropriations plan was fiscally conservative. “This budget is built with zero increases in it,’’ Forenza said. “Nobody is getting more than they got last year.’’
The 2011 budget imposed a 29-percent tax increase and resulted in the layoffs of almost 400 city workers, while the 2011 budget included a three-percent hike.
Council members said they wanted the administration to present a proposed budget for fiscal 2013 by next month. Business administrator Charles Thomas said the administration would try to comply with the council’s wishes.
“This is the last time I will vote for a temporary budget,’’ said Councilman Julio Tavarez.
But one key factor likely will complicate the city’s effort to expedite its budget process – the state usually does not announce how much money in “transition aid” it will give to so-called “distressed cities” until the fall. The transition aid is supposed to help cities suffering from economic difficulties the money they need to operate until they can get back on their feet.
Transition aid has been a crucial part of Paterson’s budget in recent years. In fiscal 2011, the city received about $28 million in transitional aid and in fiscal 2012 Paterson got about $21 million.
But the Christie administration has emphasized its goal of weaning cities off the transitional aid by pushing them to become more self-sufficient. As part of the agreement that provided Paterson with $21 million last year, the city was supposed to submit to Trenton by June 30 a transition plan “detailing how it intends to eliminate its reliance on Transition Aid’’ within the next three years and “must set forth a reasonable reduction” this year.
Paterson, however, has not completed that plan, Thomas said. The state has given the city a three-week extension on its deadline for submitting the plan, Thomas said.