Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Officials Give No Details on Possible Cuts

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Officials Give No Details on Possible Cuts

Article excerpt

PATERSON -- City officials have yet to disclose any specific budget cuts other than the controversial early shutdowns of the two municipal swimming pools and 34 summer camps.

Business Administrator Nellie Pou said city administrators are being asked to slash overtime by 50 percent and their operating expenditures by 16 percent. But details about how those cuts would affect city programs and services haven't been determined, Pou said.

The administration put into effect the reductions affecting the pools and camps because those programs use seasonal and provisional employees whose jobs could be cut immediately without having to go through the civil service process, Pou said.

The city hasn't yet calculated how much it expects to save from shutting down the pools and camps on Aug. 12, she said.

City Council members said they only learned of the mayor's plans for the pools and camps on Thursday when they were contacted by Paterson's recreation coordinator, Benjie Wimberly.

"I think it's a little unconscionable to target the pools," said City Council President William McKoy. "It's only a small part of the budget and it impacts our most vulnerable citizens."

"I hope the mayor is not using our youth as pawns," said Councilman Andre Sayegh.

The recreation cuts come as the mayor and council are entangled in a political standoff over the approval of a preliminary tax levy for the 2017 fiscal year, a step that's required before the city can send out its August property tax bills.

Torres' staff initially proposed setting the preliminary tax levy at $7 million higher than last year's figure, but the council rejected that plan. Despite the administration's subsequent offer to make $21 million in budget cuts, the council has remained opposed to the mayor's plan.

Pou has said the city may need to borrow money to cover its bills if the council doesn't approve a preliminary tax levy soon. Pou said on Friday that one of the reasons the administration targeted the summer recreation programs for cuts was that the savings would be immediate and help with the city's impending cash-flow problems.

Torres could not be reached for comment on Friday. …

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