Paterson Top Stories

Should Paterson Increase Fees Surrounding Towns Pay For City Health Services?

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PATERSON, NJ – Last fiscal year, Paterson collected $71,000 from six neighboring towns for providing health department services to them. But Councilman Kenneth Morris thinks that may not be enough.

Morris has called on city officials to revise the formula that was used to charge other municipalities for the services. Morris, chairman of the finance committee, said he had “a problem with people outside the community paying less than our own taxpayers” for the services. In fact, Morris argued at the July 10 City Council meeting that surrounding towns should slightly more than what the services cost Paterson.

“If you don’t want to pay, you get your services somewhere else,’’ Morris said.

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For the fiscal year 2011-12, Paterson received $18,846 from Hawthorne, $12,502 from Woodland Park, $10,805 from Haledon, $9,888 from Totowa, $9,648 from North Haledon and $9,370 from Prospect Park for public health services, according to city documents. Those payments were based on a formula created by the state Public Health Priority Funding Act, which takes into account the surrounding towns’ populations and property values, according to a city memo on the issue.

Under that formula, the state in the previous year had picked up part of the cost and the surrounding towns paid a smaller share. But the state eliminated the funding from its budget last year, essentially forcing the towns to pay more money.

Assistant City Corporation Counsel Dawn Blakely-Harper outlined the situation for the City Council during the July 10 workshop meeting. Morris asked Blakely-Harper whether the law allowed Paterson to devise its own formula for charging surrounding towns for health services. She told him she believed there was nothing in the law that prevented Paterson from doing that.

As a result, Morris called for the city to come up with a formula that would not only cover Paterson’s costs but also provide the some extra payment, akin to an administrative fee.

The city’s Health and Human Services Director, Donna Nelson-Ivy, said the services Paterson provides to other towns are not very extensive. Among them, she said, are running various health clinics. Also, she said, Paterson provides the use of its health officer to the other towns in emergencies.

Under state law, all municipalities must either have their own health officers or have in place a contract to use another government entity’s health officer. For several months in 2010 and 2011, Paterson itself did not have a health officer on its payroll and at one point had negotiated a dead to use Passaic County’s health officer. But that fell through and Paterson later hired Trevor Weigle for the job.

Paterson’s introduced 2012 budget included about $2.9 million for the operation of the city’s health division.

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