Trick or Treat? State Slams the Door on City’s Request to Buy Halloween Goodies
Thursday, October 18, 2012 • 7:43am
PATERSON, NJ – Halloween may become the latest casualty of Paterson’s fiscal problems.
State officials have told the city it cannot continue its recent tradition of buying candy, cookies and other treats for local Halloween parties run by community organizations.
Paterson officials thought they had worked out a way around the state’s edict against using taxpayers’ money for the goodies. They were going to tap into their Clean Communities grant, funds from New Jersey’s environmental department that are supposed to be used for things like enforcement of anti-litter laws and cleanup events.
But Business Administrator Charles Thomas told the City Council Tuesday night that regulations governing the Clean Communities money wouldn’t allow it to be spent on Halloween treats.
As a result, two resolutions authorizing the purchase of the goodies were dropped from the council’s agenda on Tuesday night. That shopping list included $2,636 worth of Lays Potato Chips, $1,680 in Snickers bars, $1,140 in Oreo cookies, $877 in Charms Blow Pops, and $844 in Twizzlers.
“The state doesn’t seem to like Halloween,’’ said Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris.
Morris asserted that city-subsidized parties were important were an important way to provide Paterson children safe places to enjoy Halloween.
Thomas said Paterson would continue to try to find other ways to buy the treats, including taking private donations. Two council members, Anthony Davis and William McKoy, quickly said they would contribute to that cause. The Downtown Paterson Special Improvement District is taking donations for the city's Halloween candy distribution at its Haunted House at 186 Main Street.
This year, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs has rigorously enforced an agreement under which it provided Paterson $21 million in Transition Aid last year. One of the provisions says, “No funds shall be expended for non-statutory charitable contributions, bereavement, or celebratory purposes, for individuals or organizations.’’
As a result, Paterson this year has been forced to cancel its city-sponsored Mother’s Day Breakfast, Memorial Day celebration, and Great Falls Festival. It also had to stop buying hot dogs for National Night Out block parties in August.
There’s no reason to think things will get any better next year. The city is asking the state for even more money in transition aid for the 2013 budget than what it received.