Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'City Will Sink' without Aid Hike

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'City Will Sink' without Aid Hike

Article excerpt

PATERSON -- In an effort to close a $5 million budget deficit, the city is asking state government for a 20 percent increase in transition aid.

In applying for the extra money, Mayor Jeffery Jones said Paterson faces "extraordinary needs" and struggles with a structural budget gap resulting from the city's expenses exceeding its revenues.

Jones said in an Oct. 31 letter to the state Division of Local Government Services that the solution to Paterson's problem is ongoing state support through transitional aid.

"Without it, our city will sink," the mayor wrote.

Jones said in his letter that the city has tried to maximize its revenues while reducing expenses.

"We make the tough decisions in the governance of the city," the mayor wrote. "We cut and reduce, and still we cannot close this gap."

Paterson is asking for $27 million in transitional aid for the 2014 budget, compared with $22.4 million in 2013, $21 million in 2012 and $28.2 million in 2011. Paterson officials say the average amount of transitional aid received by the city dropped from $27.65 million per year from 2006 through 2009 to $24.68 million per year from 2010 through 2013.

At the same time, budget problems have forced Paterson to impose average annual tax increases of $11.9 million in the past four years, the application says.

State officials have not said when they would decide how much aid to give Paterson and other cities. Trenton has not disclosed exactly how much money is available for the current group of applicants.

Last year, Paterson received the second-largest allotment among the more than $75 million in aid grants. Trenton got the most at $25.4 million, while Camden received $15.5 million and Union City $11.9 million.

The aid program is designed as a bridge to help struggling cities get through tough times but should not be considered a permanent source of revenue, state officials have said.

"The city needs this aid. It improves the quality of services and the quality of life for our property owners, residents and visitors," Jones said in his letter.

The city's preliminary 2014 budget is $241.6 million, and it would raise city taxes by 7. …

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