The city council approved a $19 million temporary budget for mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration on Tuesday evening. This is the city’s fifth temporary budget since the current fiscal year began in July 2016.
$167.77 million will be spent through temporary budgets at the end of February, according to city records. This constitutes 61-percent of the administration’s $275 million introduced budget for fiscal year 2017.
With four more months to go in the fiscal year which ends on June 30th, 2017, business administrator Nellie Pou told the council: “We are below the amount our budget would be.” She said the temporary budget will allow the city to make payroll through the end of February.
The business administrator said the city is waiting on the state for a transitional aid figure before it can adopt a final budget. She said she hopes to receive a number from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) by the end of January. The city is seeking $25.2 million in financial assistance from the state government, said city officials.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, asked what if the state does not provide the entire $25.2 million the city has requested. He said last year the city requested $38.4 million only to receive $25 million. The business administrator said the city’s state fiscal monitor is aware of the city’s need.
“DCA knows our need is not less than,” said the business administrator. She said the city has provided the state with a great amount of information to justify the $25.2 million aid request. “I can’t guarantee anything,” she said. The state understands the city’s fiscal situation, she told the council.
“The longer we wait to hear from DCA and the longer we need temporary budgets to meet our obligations we end up backing into the introduced budget of $275 million. So you end up getting the budget as introduced and approved by default,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, chairman of the council’s finance committee. “There may be some folks who have no intentions of supporting an introduced budget of over $275 million.”
Morris said he is “uncomfortable” seeing the introduced budget receive default approval through temporary budget measures. He told the administration he will support the fifth temp budget, but may not support new temporary spending measures in the future.
Torres told the council he considered this temporary spending measure as the “last temporary appropriation.” He held out the possibility of adopting a final budget with amendments in the first week of February.
The mayor also said the city may populate the anticipated aid figures into the budget, adopt it, and send it to the state for approval rather than waiting on a transitional aid number. “That will just push them instead of us just waiting,” he said. “That’s me taking a very rebel approach that sometimes is necessary.”