The city is moving ahead with auction to sell off 46 government-owned properties despite opposition from half-dozen residents. Some community residents criticized the administration and the governing body for failing to give locals first dibs on the properties.
Community activist Casey Melvin said the auction favors big money developers. He urged municipal officials to put off the auction until a new method can be devised that gives residents “first right of refusal.”
The auction is part of a revenue generation plan to close a large shortfall in the fiscal 2018 budget. The 46 properties have a total assessed value of $2.4 million. Under the terms of the auction, the city will seek starting bids of 20-percent of assessed value on each of the property.
Assessments range from $9,300 to $278,000. At minimum, the city is looking to bring in $480,000 in revenue.
Council members favored Melvin’s concept to let residents get first shots at buying the properties; however, they argued the city could not put off the auction for fear of losing out on new revenue.
“This fixes a $2 million hole in the budget,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman.
“If this wasn’t approved the burden on taxpayers would increase,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman.
The city has yet to adopt a budget. Fiscal year 2018 began last July. It has been operating with a series of temporary spending measures.
Business administrator Nellie Pou has told council members the city cannot adopt a budget until it receives an award figure from the state.
The state last fiscal year provided $25 million to the city. This year, the city is looking for $27 million in aid. Municipal officials said they have yet to receive a figure from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
McKoy and Sayegh are seldom on the same side of an issue. Their colleague councilman Michael Jackson of the 1st Ward was the sole vote against holding the auction.
“We’re selling the city to everyone, but Patersonians,” said Jackson. After the vote Melvin said the municipal government was “inconsiderate” of residents.
Melvin expressed disappointment at the council’s action.
“They are putting money over residents,” said Melvin.
The auction will be conducted on Mar. 15, 2018 by Max Spann Real Estate & Auction Company. The firm is handling the auction for a 10-percent buyer’s premium on each property – the city does not have to pay the firm anything.