Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Council Seeks Spending Controls

The City Council gave initial approval Monday to a 4 percent salary increase for two unions, but officials and residents both said city employees may have to share in belt-tightening in the future.

The 4 percent increase for members of the Plainfield Municipal Employees Association and a small group of Public Works employees was negotiated long before the recent economic collapse that is causing massive job losses and other cutbacks in the private sector. But the city’s ability to control its spending is hindered by a budget process that almost every year ends up with salaries being paid for two quarters before the budget is passed. The FY 2009 budget covers the fiscal year that began July 1 and due to a wait for extraordinary state aid, may run over into January before final passage.

Councilman Cory Storch suggested a hiring freeze as one way the city can limit spending, and said the city must find a way to implement other kinds of controls.

The largest part of the budget is salaries and wages, with Fire and Police divisions taking the biggest share. The city has half a dozen bargaining units in all.

“We have been trying to move the whole budget up,” said Councilman Burney, who heads the governing body’s Finance Committee.

But he said the extraordinary state aid for fiscal year municipalities is announced in December, which holds up the process.

On a wry note, Burney added there may not be any such state aid next year.

Burney has posted the revised budget schedule on his blog, “As I See It.”

Resident Robert Darden spoke about increasing foreclosures and a lengthy tax delinquency notice in the newspapers.

“The nation is reducing its budget, the state is reducing its budget,” he said, but not the city.

--Bernice Paglia


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