Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Council to Resume Budget Talks

In the weeks since the City Council last discussed the budget, several things have changed, officials agreed Monday.

Finance Committee Chairman Rashid Burney told the council Monday that any amendments to the FY 2008 budget must address new items brought up by the administration. But he said any changes at this point would be minor compared to the negative effect of not passing the budget as soon as possible.

The budget covers the fiscal year that began July 1, 2007. The council began budget deliberations in October and presented $350,000 in proposed cuts to the administration in December. But because Finance Director Ray Daniels quit and Chief Financial Officer Peter Sepelya retired in December, City Administrator Marc Dashield said he needed more time to review the impact of the proposed amendments.

The amendments were aimed at reducing an 8.5 percent tax increase that would add $327 more to taxes on the average $113,000 home.

Burney said the Finance Committee met Jan. 24 with the administration for feedback on the cuts. But the make-up of the three-member committee changed at the Jan. 1 reorganization. Meanwhile, City Council President Harold Gibson, a new member of the committee, had surgery that will keep him from taking part for another week, Burney said.

Dashield said Monday the administration found some errors and new things that must be considered, “a lot of changes in there.” But he said the administration is “trying to make it a net-zero effect.”

Burney said the first step will be a meeting to talk about the amendments, which then must be published before a public hearing and final passage. The council and administration agreed to meet Monday (Feb. 11, 2008) from 7 to 9 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

With each passing month, the budget process takes on urgency, as cuts can only affect the remaining months before the fiscal year ends June 30. With no FY 2008 budget yet in place, the council held a special meeting Monday to approve emergency appropriations to operate the city this month.

--Bernice Paglia


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