Saturday, February 10, 2007

Budget Hearing Monday

The City Council will hold a special meeting Monday (Feb. 12, 2007) for a hearing on budget amendments and final passage of the FY 2007 budget.

Over the past several weeks, the council whittled down a proposed 8.2 percent tax increase for the fiscal year that began July 1 to 3.97 percent. Amendments were published in the Courier News Friday. The meeting will be 8 p.m. Monday in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

Pending budget passage, the city has operated using one-twelfth of last year’s budget amount each month in emergency appropriations. Because the city is now eight months into the fiscal year, reductions will only affect remaining months until June 30, when the fiscal year ends.

Normally, the administration sends out blanket 75-day layoff notices in anticipation of having to cut some jobs. But at last Tuesday’s meeting with seniors, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs said she did not want to send out the notices in October, when she said they should have gone out. They will now be issued, she said.

Officials have projected that savings will mainly be effected by not filling vacancies, but if anyone’s job is on the line, they most likely cannot be laid off until May due to the late notice.

Among the cuts: Salaries and wages, $30,000 from Engineering; Police, $125,000; Fire, $72,000; Inspections, $143,000. Expenses: Senior Center, $24,000; Inspections, $10,000.

The council cut $1,500 from “other expenses” for the mayor’s office but added $20,000 to its own “other expenses” line.

Maintenance of the Free Public Library was cut by $20,000.

The tax rate was increased July 1 to $3.19 for the last two quarters of 2006, so property owners have already been paying more toward the FY 2007 budget. The tax rate for bills due in February and May will be $3.24 per $100 of assessed valuation, or an increase of $56.50 on the average $113,000 home.

--Bernice Paglia


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