After running city government on a series of temporary spending measures for the first half of the fiscal year, the city, which has been waiting for a state transitional aid figure, will finally be able to adopt a budget.
Business administrator Nellie Pou said on Tuesday night the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has agreed to award $25.25 million in transitional aid for fiscal year 2017. This is the same amount in state financial assistance the city received in the previous fiscal year.
Pou said $25 million will be used for general appropriations while the $250,000 will cover the financial consultant the city hired at the state’s recommendation.
Council members were provided amendments to the budget by mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration. Budget officer Margaret Cherone said the amount of money the city is raising through taxation — $151.37 million – remains same as it was in the introduced budget.
“There’s no change in the tax levy,” said Cherone. The city has cut its tax levy from $156.81 million in last fiscal year to $151.37 million this year, according to city records. The reduction was possible because of a $11.4 million surplus the city generated through four tax lien sales towards the close of the previous fiscal year.
Homeowners will not see a decrease in their tax bills due to increases in county and school taxes, according to officials. In its transitional aid application, the city had calculated homeowners would see a onetime relief in their property tax bills.
The amendments increased the overall budget from $275 million to $278.86 million. Cherone explained this is largely due to the addition of a number of grants. The city also shifted money from some items to boost others. For example, the city has reduced the line item for snow storms from $700,000 to $200,000.
The insurance liability item has been increased from $2.1 to $3.9 million. The amendment that stood out was the increase in the police line item. Police salaries had to be increased from $43.84 to $44.85 million. Cherone said many of the salaries in the introduced budget were not adjusted for contractual increases and promotions.
After Cherone went through the amendments council members did not ask any questions or have any discussions. She said the council is expected to vote on a final budget on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017.