PATERSON, NJ - City residents and businesses may soon be reaching deeper into their pockets to help close Paterson's budget shortfall. The City Council on October 19 introduced the first wave of ordinances that will increase court fines and various municipal fees - everything from dog licenses to permits to operate junkyards.
Councilman Rigo Rodriguez questioned the wisdom of asking struggling businesses to pay more money. But his colleagues pointed out that the fee hikes were crucial to the city's efforts to win substantial funding from the state government's transition aid program. Paterson is applying for $70 million in state transitional aid and without that money property taxes on an average city house could rise as much as $2,900 in 2011.
"We have to demonstrate to the state that we're looking to maximize and generate additional revenues,'' said Councilman Kenneth Morris, chairman of the city's finance committee. The fee increases would show the state one way the city is trying to wean itself off transition aid, he said.
The council is scheduled to vote to enact the increases at its November 9 meeting. Residents may attend that session to give their views on the hikes. If approved, the increases would take effect 20 days later, officials said.
Among the hikes are:
*liquor license for bars, from $911 to $1,053.
*dog license from $7 to $11.
*mercantile license from $100 to $125.
*dance hall license from $100 to $110.
*ice cream peddler from $125 to $140.
*pool room from $200 to $220.
*laundromat from $20 per machine to $25 per machine.
*parking lot from $1.50 per space to $5 per space.
*parking in safety zone, too close to an intersection or at a fire hydrant from $45 to $50.
*improper parking from $25 to $35.
Some of the proposals generated dissent among the council members. For example, Councilman Julio Tavarez criticized raising the fee to apply for a public defender from $100 to $200.
"Remember, the public defender's office was established for a reason,'' Tavarez said. "The people who need the public defender's office do not have the resources, and if you don't have the resources, $200 is a lot of money.''
But Council President Aslon Goow Sr. argued that the fee was fair, considering a private attorney might cost as much as $5,000. "There's a small percentage of real hardships,'' Goow said "The large majority of these people have more money than you, me and everybody here put together.''
Meanwhile, Tavarez thought the fine for trucks parking overnight in residential areas - which was originally listed for a $15 increase to $50 - was too low. "Can't we make that a little higher?'' he asked his colleagues, pointing out the inconvenience people endure when truck hog choice parking spots in neighborhood. The other council members agreed and they amended the proposal to set the truck parking fine to $100.