Acting mayor Jane Williams-Warren’s administration secured approval for a $36.23 million temporary budget that funds government from December through January. The approval came after councilman Kenneth Morris warned his colleagues the temporary budget is putting the city on a trajectory to outstrip spending outlined in the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget.
Council members approved three temporary budgets since the start of the fiscal in July. The city will have spent $151.2 million at the end of January, according to municipal records.
“That represents 54.2-percent of the prior year adopted budget of $278.8 million,” said finance director Marge Cherone. “We’re trending underneath our seven-month appropriation.”
Morris, chairman of the finance committee, disagreed.
“I’m growing somewhat concerned,” he said, “just based on these temporary budgets. I’m just not comfortable with the way we’re trending right now.”
Morris warned his colleagues through temporary appropriations the council could end up supporting an increased budget that it has so far opposed.
“We wait until the last minute to approve it and we end up receiving a budget that we worked so against,” said Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, early Wednesday morning.
Williams-Warren’s administration proposed a $279.52 million budget. Council members approved the introduced budget and demanded cuts prior to a final adoption. Morris and his colleagues called on the administration to prepare a layoff plan.
Morris called on the administration for months to cut 20-percent in spending in every department.
There’s a 2.5-percent tax increase in Williams-Warren’s proposed budget. It could be a while before the council votes on adopting a budget. The city is waiting on an answer for its $27 million aid request to the state.
Business administrator Nellie Pou said the city may not receive a transitional aid figure until February.
“There’s a trend going on. We’re not being given information on a timely basis,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. He referred to a request the council made for salaries of employees and other information when it approved the introduced budget earlier in the month.
McKoy and his colleagues were provided the documents. Some received it in their emails while others did not.
There were also digressionary discussion about the city’s residency requirement for employees that led to a clash between council president Ruby Cotton and councilman Michael Jackson.
Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, asked about part-time pay for an individual employee and the residency requirement for employees. Cotton told Jackson he is unlikely to receive a satisfactory answer from the administration.
Cotton told Jackson to either vote yes or no on the temporary budget.
“You completely overstepped your bounds,” remarked Jackson.
“Your disrespectful, Michael,” replied Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman.
Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman, suggested having a discussion at a workshop meeting.
There’s an ordinance requiring employees to live in the city. For example, there’s a local law that requires the mayor’s cabinet to live in Paterson. However, a majority of council members in 2014 confirmed former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ department heads, a majority of whom do not live in Paterson.
Council members approved the temporary spending measure in a 6-3 vote. Council members Maritza Davila, Shahin Khalique, Mendez, Velez, Andre Sayegh, and Cotton voted in favor while Jackson, McKoy, and Morris voted against.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to do another one in February,” said Cotton of temporary budgets. This could spell trouble for the city which is heading into a tumultuous election year in 2018.