Paterson council unanimously votes down mayor Torres’ preliminary tax levy | Paterson Times

Paterson council unanimously votes down mayor Torres’ preliminary tax levy


Citing a cycle of tax hikes and lack of future planning by mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration, the nine-member city council unanimously voted down a preliminary tax levy increase in a post-midnight vote on Wednesday morning.

Torres administration sought to increase the tax rate to 4.359 from 4.108 to strike a preliminary levy in order to send out tax bills next month, but the council members saw the increase as less than reasonable.

“The taxpayers are in municipal over burden,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, chairman of the finance committee. Taxes have gone up every year while property values have dropped, he said. “This is an endless cycle,” said Morris.

An average property assessed at $192,500 will pay $8,391 in taxes based on the increased levy, he reckoned. “When the average taxes in the city of Paterson is $8,000 that’s significant, that exceeds the state average. New Jersey is known as the highest property tax state in the union,” said Morris.

Morris said he did not see any plans to freeze salaries or cut expenses.

“This administration continues to tell us to raise taxes, but they’re not telling us how they plan to raise revenue,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. “We don’t see many new revenue streams being introduced to the city.”

“We don’t see no cuts, but more spending,” added Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman.

Business administrator Nellie Pou presented a detailed list of items that are pushing government costs this year. There are $14 million in additional expenses in fiscal year 2017. There’s a 27th pay check for employees this year which comes around every 11 years, she said.

That 27th pay will cost $4.3 million. Morris said the city should have anticipated the 27th pay. He suggested setting aside small amounts every year for the next 27th pay in the future.

There’s $4.2 million in salary increases for labor contracts. Workers compensation and liability costs have increased to $2.4 million, according to city documents.

The business administrator said the $3 million the city was able to use to fill a hole in last year’s budget by slashing old capital improvement projects are also not there this year.

School tax and county taxes have gone up this year, noted Pou. She said the tax rates are being pushed up by both the schools, county government, and open space taxes.

The city should find a way to hold back the open space taxes, said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. He said governor Chris Christie always seems to find a way to selectively pay for obligations.

Even if the city holds back paying open space taxes that amounts to $643, 192, according to city records.

Jackson said taxpayers cannot afford to make payments to support the open space tax.

“We can’t just not pay open space taxes,” said Pou.

“What are they going to do to us?” replied Jackson.

“They can impose interests and place a ban on the municipality,” responded Pou.

Law director Domenick Stampone said there’s no opt-out provision in the open space law. The city receives less in open space funding than it contributes, noted city officials.

Council members said the administration is not doing enough to cut expenses and raise revenue from other sources.

Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, said code enforcement has been missing. “Laws are being broken terribly in the city,” she said stating enforcement will bring in revenue.

Morris suggested putting in policies to better train employees to reduce workers compensation claims.

Pou said the city’s risk manager Samir Goow has been doing just that.

Morris said the city is also budgeting money for vacant positions. He suggested cutting those.

“How many political appointees are in those salaries?” asked Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large.

“There’s zero,” responded Pou.

Davila said she vowed not to support tax increases in the new fiscal year after playing an instrumental role in getting the mayor’s budgets passed last year.

Several members of the public spoke out against tax increases prior to the post-midnight vote. Joyce Corbo, a resident of the Garret Heights, urged council members to vote against any levy increases.

Corbo and other homeowners of the Garret Heights were hit hard by tax increases last year as a result of the property revaluation.

Morris urged the administration to present a reasonable budget as soon as possible to get the tax bills out.

“It’s time for the administration to start cutting now,” added Shahin Khalique, 2nd Ward councilman.

“We have to look for drastic reductions in this budget,” said Alex Mendez, councilman at-large.

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  • Karen Mallory

    Govenor Christy needs to force Torres to make the cuts Now.
    People can't pay taxes now, if he raises them again
    There will be another exodus from Paterson.
    I saw 2 police officers standing looking into
    a hole being dug by PSEG
    Why ? In other towns there is only one officer
    at any construction site.
    People are walking away from their homes in record numbers.
    I drove around Paterson a few days and was shocked at the number
    of homes that have been abandoned.
    The mayor has added a bunch of do-nothing jobs and he needs to
    cut that budget down Immediately.
    The Police force is twice the size it should be.
    I wish Christy would step up and force Paterson to have huge lay-offs.
    Just as the Superintendent of schools found some schools had more teacher's than
    students, Paterson Municipal payrolls has more employees than positions.
    I never see any police around unless there is a shooting.
    Police should be highly visible.

  • Plumber

    Obvious Ms. Mallory has a problem with the police, first if you see a police officer or two at a PSEG job's it's because it's an off duty job in which they are paid by PSEG who forwards this money to the city who takes their cut then pay the officer, second you say the police are not visible maybe that's because in one year Paterson police officers respond to 150,000 calls or more and have little time to patrol area's and yes when there is a shooting all police available will respond since a shooting call is priority # 1, and believe me for size and population of Paterson the police are very under manned. It's funny when things don't go a person way or hardships are experienced, their quick to blame the police for everything that's doesn't go right, the toilet doesn't flush blame the police, the milk is sour blame the police, the blame should be place right where it belongs on the corrupt ass joey torres, who uses DPW for his personal gain and who knows what other departments, has friends and family on the payroll on no show jobs non essential made up positions, you say you drive around and see a lot of abandon homes just wait you'll see more coming, joey is out of his freakin mind to even think of rising taxes on the poor over taxed patersonians which I'm one of them, I'm trying as we speak to sell my house for what I own the bank and take a loss just to get out of Paterson, and I can't even do that because I own more to the bank then my house is worth, if it doesn't work out then my house will be another abandon property

  • Matt Aral

    Goes to show how the classic phrase that the one and only great retired councilman Thomas Rooney once quoted "Anything goes in Paterson"is so true to this day…Mayor Torres is still trying to stick it to the tax payers anyway he can,Thank god the council are on the same page by voting down the tax levy and want answers and solutions why….the budget is high…I hear echoes about where is the Code Enforcement,Inspectors to hammer these properties in violation to generate revenue to offset the high taxes in the city….WAKE UP PEOPLE…The Code Enforcement,Inspectors come to work everyday and just do the minimal requirements that there VERY LOW SALARIES pay them to do….while the Administration,Directors,Supervisors are bleeding the system dry and profiting from this distressed city..NOBODY IS WATCHING THE STORE….I as an former Inspector for the City of Paterson generated $20,000 weekly in summonses yes that's right $20,000 weekly,and have a minimal court day of at least 50 cases every friday and I'm sure the Prosecutors and Judges would verify…They would ask me if I was the only Inspector that was working at DPW and I would Chuckle at their comment…I resigned 2013 under Jeff Jones because I was promised a pay raise but never delivered,When Mayor Torres won the election I had offered my services back to this once great city but I was not welcomed back…So now I sit back and watch the Council meetings every other Tuesday with a bowl of Popcorn and a cool drink and Chuckle at these Complaints from the tax payers about where are the Code Enforcement,Inspectors…..Sad to say but until the city cleans house with this current administration,ANYTHING GOES IN PATERSON……