The city council approved a $34.5 million temporary budget that will fund city government from October through November, according to city records.
The city has been running on temporary budgets since fiscal year 2016 began on July 1st, 2015. So far from July through November the city will have spent $100.9 million or little less than half of its annual budget.
The city’s fiscal year 2015 budget was $252.6 million, according to municipal documents.
“That puts us close to 50-percent when we have not yet adopted a budget,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, who chairs the council’s finance committee. “If we continue to do these temporary appropriations we will literally back into that budget number.”
The council has reduced the city’s tax levy – the amount of money the municipality collects through taxation – by $5 million in late August.
Morris said the temporary budget that was approved on Tuesday evening will cover mostly salary expenses for city work. He also noted some other expenses: $6 million for insurance, $425,000 for fire, and $245,000 for police.
“We got to make payroll,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman. She said if city workers are not paid the municipality could be faced with labor law violations that might result in hefty fines. “We must pay payroll,” she said.
Similarly, Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large, said the city could be sued if it doesn’t pay its workers.
Business administrator Nellie Pou said the city is waiting on the state for appropriation cap formula. She said the transitional aid application process opened last Friday. She said the city has submitted a letter of intent to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) that it wish to apply for state aid.
Pou said the city plans to ask for $25 million or more. The city received $25 million in transitional aid last fiscal year.
Morris raised doubts about whether a final budget could be adopted in the next quarter. Pou said the administration hopes to submit a budget within that time period.
The city did not adopt a budget until March in fiscal year 2015. It received a state aid figure in February, said city officials. “Without the $25 million the state provides us in transitional aid we could not have completed our budget,” said Pou.
Morris said he won’t support anymore temporary budgets that exceed $30 million. He warned the administration the council may not approve future temporary budgets without shaving off a chunk of it.
“If we don’t have an adopted budget fairly soon every temporary budget that you put forth will be reduced by a significant percentage,” said Morris. He said as council’s finance committee chairman he will recommend 15-percent reduction in future temporary appropriations.
“The line has to be drawn regarding temporary appropriations going forward” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman.
The temporary budget was adopted with seven council members voting in favor. Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman, was absent.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, abstained from voting. He said he needed more time to review the numbers.
The council approved three temporary budgets since the start of the 2016 fiscal year in July.