The city council approved a $75.9 million temporary budget for mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration to run municipal government for the next three months.
Council president William McKoy described the temporary budget, which will cover July, August, and September, as “relatively safe” and necessary to allow the city to expend funds to continue providing services to residents while the administration prepares a budget.
Temporary budgets are safe until they cease to be so. “We want to avoid a shutdown like last year’s,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, bringing to mind the one day government shutdown imposed by Torres during a budget tussle with the city council earlier in the year.
Sayegh urged the administration to present a final budget within a “reasonable” amount of time. He said he wants to see a final budget before the end of December.
“We’re hopeful that following this temporary budget the council will, perhaps, consider two additional temporary budgets before we’re ready to adopt the final budget,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, chairman of the finance committee.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, suggested he may not support temporary budgets beyond September. He said he would like to see a budget submitted to the city council by September.
Morris said adoption of a budget is often delayed due to the hold up in distressed cities financial assistance figures from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The city received $25 million in transitional aid last fiscal year allowing the council to adopt a budget in late March when much of the budget was spent in the preceding 9 months.
The city’s budget year begins on July 1st.
Last fiscal year, council members could not find much to cut in the budget so late in the budget year passing onto taxpayers a 5.8-percent property tax increase upon adoption of the $275.5 million municipal budget.
Morris noted the city can move forward with a budget by anticipating 95-percent of the state aid based on the prior year’s figure.
The first temporary budget of this fiscal year was approved by the council in a 8-0 vote on Friday afternoon at its reorganization meeting.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, recused herself from the vote, due to there being a payment in the temporary budget for her former employer the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission.
Cotton retired from her commission job and collects a pension.