PATERSON, NJ – A standoff over overtime payments stemming from last summer’s floods may cost Paterson about $165,000 in federal disaster reimbursement, city officials said.
About $209,000 in flood-related overtime for rank-and-file employees has been on hold since last October when the City Council refused to sign off on the checks, demanding documentation to substantiate the work performed. The administration has not yet provided that information, council members said.
The city, however, has included the $209,000 in its application with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seeking reimbursement for flood-related expenses, officials said. FEMA reimburses local governments for 80-percent of their approved expenses in response to declared disasters, so Paterson is seeking about $165,000 reimbursement for the $209,000.
FEMA has told Paterson that it will not get reimbursed for the $209,000 overtime unless the money gets paid to city workers, said Business Administrator Charles Thomas. The deadline is the end of March, said Paterson Emergency Management Director Glenn Brown.
Meanwhile, the unions representing city police officers and firefighters – the two groups of workers who would receive the bulk of the $209,000 - have filed grievances last year to try to force the city to make the payments. Those union challenges remain in litigation.
Thomas warned the city council at its meeting on March 6 that Paterson “will have to pay double” if the unions prevail on the grievances.
“We’ll just have to find double the reduction in somebody’s budget,’’ responded City Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris.
“We have to be sure the taxpayers’ money is being used correctly,’’ said Morris.
The city council’s refusal to approve the $209,000 in overtime came in the aftermath of the disclosure that the mayor and top city officials had received overtime for flood-related work.
The disputed $209,000 in overtime is just a fraction of the city's total application with FEMA.