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Thumbs Down! City Council Rejects February Budget; Payment of Paterson’s Bills in Doubt

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PATERSON, NJ – The City Council on Tuesday night voted down Paterson’s proposed temporary budget for February, a move that officials said may force the city to get special permission from the state to pay its employees at the end of this week.

The budget rejection also means $2.3 million in employee health insurance and prescription bills that were due in December will continue to go unpaid, officials said.

In the latest thrusts in a financial and political fencing match that started back in July, at the beginning of the current fiscal year, several council members said they voted against the $16 million budget for February because the administration had not provided enough information about how it planned to close Paterson’s $8.5 million structural deficit.

“Where are you going to find $8.5 million?” asked Councilman Kenneth Morris, chairman of the finance committee. Morris warned taxpayers to expect the worst in the form of a substantial tax increase. “Prepare yourself,’’ he said. “You are going to get walloped. You are going to get walloped hard.’’

Paterson Finance Director Anthony Zambrano told the council that the administration was simply waiting for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to tell the city how much Transition Aid it would receive before it finalized the budget. Zambrano said he would present the council with a plan for closing the deficit within a week of the Transition Aid notification.

But five of the eight council members at Tuesday’s meeting were not willing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt. Voting against the temporary budget were Morris, William McKoy, Rigo Rodriguez, Julion Tavarez and Andre Sayegh. Voting in favor were Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, Ruby Cotton, and Kenneth McDaniel. Council President Anthony Davis was away.

At one point, it seemed the temporary budget might have enough support to pass. After three members cast affirmative votes, McKoy said he would reluctantly vote in favor of the one-month budget. But as he spoke about at the issue, McKoy said he convinced himself to vote against it.

In particular, McKoy expressed frustration that Mayor Jeffery Jones was not at the meeting, saying he should have been there “wrestling with these tough issues.’’

After McKoy spoke, none of his colleagues voted in favor of the budget.

“The time has run out,’’ said Councilman Julio Tavarez, express his impatience with the budget delays.

 

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