PATERSON, NJ – City Business Administrator Charles Thomas said Tuesday night that municipal finance officials have identified about $3.4 million in cuts in Paterson’s proposed 2013 budget, closing by about 40 percent the structural deficit.
In discussing the budget with the City Council, Thomas said he also hoped to achieve additional cuts in contract negotiations with Paterson’s 17 labor unions.
But Thomas did not provide details on exactly how those cuts would be made.
At present, the city’s proposed budget is $8.5 million larger than allowed under the state’s cap law. Even if $8.5 million in cuts were made, city property owners would get hit with a 3.6 percent tax increase.
In fact, Thomas originally told the council that the administration was "about halfway there" in closing the deficit. When Morris asked if that meant $4.25 million in cuts had been made, Thomas clarified the numbers and put the amount thta had been cut at $3.4 million.
Thomas told the council he hoped to wrap up city labor negotiations during the next couple weeks. Moreover, he said city officials had a crucial meeting with representatives from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) on Friday in Trenton. The city has asked the DCA to give Paterson about a 33-percent increase in state Transition Aid, or $28.5 million, which would be enough to close budget shortfall.
Morris said he was worried the city administration may try to impose a tax hike of more than 3.6 percent by taking advantage of a possible cap law waiver that Gov. Chris Christie has mentioned as a means of helping municipalities bear the financial burden left by Hurricane Sandy. Thomas acknowledged that was something the city was looking into.
Meanwhile, the council Tuesday night approved a temporary $16 million budget for the month of January. Officials have been operating the city on a series of month-to-month temporary budgets until they finish their annual budget. The approval of the temporary budget has become the basis for a monthly sparring match between the council and the administration. Morris compared the situation to the movie “Groundhog Day” in which Bill Murray plays a television news reporter who keeps reliving the same day.
The vote on the January temporary budget was 7-2, with only Morris and Rodriguez against it. Councilman Andre Sayegh said this would be the last month he would support a temporary budget. Morris laughed at that assertion. “That’s the argument you make each time,’’ Morris said.
Indeed, Sayegh and Councilman Julio Tavarez have said several times in the past few months that would not vote in favor of another temporary budget, only to do when the next month rolled around.