Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration secured the City Council’s approval for a $268.34 million budget on Wednesday night.
Council members voted 6-1 to approve the budget. Initially, the City Council voted down the budget, but then council members Shahin Khalique and Luis Velez changed their votes to support the budget.
“We feel it’s a responsible budget,” said business administrator Kathleen Long after the budget was rejected by the council. She said overall budget, without counting grant funding, has been reduced and the tax levy is flat.
Property taxes for municipal purposes increased from $161.7 million in the last full year budget (fiscal 2020) to $163 million in the current calendar 2021 budget. The levy is flat relative to the six-month temporary budget that was passed last year. Sayegh’s team changed the city’s financial calendar from fiscal year to calendar year.
“Any budget we pass, we have to increase taxes,” said councilman Luis Velez. “We’re misleading the community saying there is no tax increase.”
Long said the school district increased its portion of property taxes. Finance director Javier Silva said the Passaic County portion also increased.
Some council members suggested suing the school district over its double-digit tax increases over the years.
Sayegh administration officials suggested there might not be a legal basis to take the district to court.
Councilman Flavio Rivera said the city needs to “put up a fight” to stop the massive increases from the district.
“Our taxpayers cannot afford it anymore,” said Rivera. He suggested bringing up the issue with state government officials.
Rivera pointed out the state has a two-percent cap on levy increases.
Council members Al Abdelaziz, Ruby Cotton, Khalique, Rivera, Velez, and Maritza Davila voted in favor while Mimms voted against. Michael Jackson and Alex Mendez were absent during the vote.