The shutdown of municipal government tomorrow as a result of a budget impasse between mayor Jose “Joey” Torres and the city council will result in the suspension of curbside garbage pick up, crossing guards, after school programs, street cleaning, and senior services, according the city.
Out of the city’s 1,651 employees 1,196 will be impacted by tomorrow’s shutdown resulting in savings of $225,000 for the municipality.
About 453 essential employees – fire, police, tax collector, city clerk, public works’ streets and roads and recycling divisions, health officer, municipal court employees – will work through the shutdown, according to the city.
Nonessential employees have been asked to not report to work on Tuesday, March 1st, 2016. Torres has said he does not have authorization to spend money beyond midnight today to pay workers.
Residents are being asked not to place garbage cans for curbside pick up until next Thursday.
Council president William McKoy on Monday morning said the council is scheduled to deliberate on the mayor’s budget amendments on Tuesday night. He said an emergency meeting could not be held on Monday night due to varying schedules of council members.
In a 4-3 post-midnight vote, council members rejected amendments to the fiscal year 2016 budget over a 6.1-percent tax increase. Council members Alex Mendez, Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, Andre Sayegh, and Julio Tavarez voted against the amendments while Ruby Cotton, Michael Jackson, and McKoy voted in favor of the changes early Wednesday morning.
Council members cited the impact the 6.1-percent tax increase will have on homeowners. Dozens of homeowners protested at the council chambers on Tuesday night urging council members to vote down the tax increase.
Akhtaruzzaman wanted to reduce the budget. Business administrator Nellie Pou told him a reduction in the budget would result in an equal reduction in state transitional aid. For example a $1 million cut in the budget will result in another $1 million reduction in state aid. Taxpayers will be left to make up $2 million as a result, according to officials.
The state has agreed to provide $25 million in financial assistance to the city.
Sayegh on Monday sent a letter to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA)’s Local Government Services director Timothy Cunningham.
“I have serious reservations regarding the budget in its current form and cannot in good conscience vote in favor of a budget that is not sustainable and will further harm taxpayers,” wrote Sayegh.
Sayegh has consistently voted against temporary budgets over the past eight months. He said his calls to cut spending fell on deaf ears.
“I have offered up some suggestions for consideration such as pay cuts for the Torres Administration and City Council, cancelling purchase orders that are not essential or contractually obligated, freeze spending for non-essential items, restructure departments to reduce or eliminate overtime and restructure debt.,” wrote Sayegh. “Moreover, a couple of my colleagues and I have pointed out over the past year irregular expenditures within the Department of Public Works relative to overtime.”
A group of public works supervisors have been able to double their salaries through overtime, according to city records.
If the amendments to the budget are approved on Tuesday night, Torres said the suspension of services will be lifted and all employees will be expected to return to work on Wednesday.
If the amendments are rejected, the suspension of services will remain in place until further notice.