Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dashield: Revenues Down

Ending the year with no budget in place, the City Council voted approval Monday for Tax Collector Maria Glavan to set an estimated tax rate for the third quarter so bills can go out in January.

At present, property owners are being billed $3.53 per $100 of assessed valuation, an estimated rate for the first two quarters. Once the budget is passed, Glavan will set a “reconciled rate” for the fourth quarter of the budget year that began July 1. City Administrator Marc Dashield said the city hopes to make a “smooth transition” from the estimated to final rate.

“We don’t want to have big jumps,” he said.

Although the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee called for a zero tax increase, the projected hike stands at 9.5 percent. The city is still awaiting word on how much extraordinary state aid it will receive and no amendments have yet been formulated.

In a report on revenues Monday, Dashield said the city anticipates $23.8 million in general revenues and $48 million in property taxes for FY 2009. The city is facing a $683,000 loss in general state aid and an overall drop of $3.4 million in lost revenues.

A $1.7 million error in one category of anticipated revenues will be made up through dipping into surplus funds and reducing the reserve for uncollected taxes.

Dashield said the city will aggressively recruit a new chief financial officer and will institute an additional review of the official budget document to avoid such errors in the future. The city has had no fulltime CFO since Peter Sepelya retired at the end of 2007.

Last week, Dashield gave a presentation on projected cuts that would have to be made in order to achieve the CBAC’s recommended zero tax increase. Among them were reductions of 30 police officers and 30 firefighters. But in remarks at his last council meeting Monday, City Council President Harold Gibson urged the governing body to keep public safety staff intact.

Council members thanked Gibson and Third Ward Councilman Don Davis for their service to the city and both responded with appreciation for the opportunity to serve. The two incumbents lost a June primary to New Democrats Annie McWilliams and Adrian Mapp, who will be sworn in at the Jan. 1 reorganization meeting.

Members of CBAC defended their work Monday and said they hope to continue advising the council as the budget process continues. The committee’s Nov. 24 report sparked controversy for going beyond just the numbers to find fault with city government. But member Jeanette Criscione said the findings were based on broad input from citizens, not just the committee’s 16 members. When asked what services they felt should be cut for budget savings, she said, most people responded, “What services?”

Criscione said residents perceive a major gap “between what they are paying and what they are getting,” adding the report was not meant to create ill will, but to bring everyone together.

“We need to work together,” she said. “Plainfield has issues.”

No dates have been set to continue budget talks. Councilman Rashid Burney, chairman of the Finance Committee, has been posting budget dates and information on his blog. After the meeting Monday, Burney posted the presentation on revenues and previously posted Dashield’s explanation on cuts needed to avoid a tax increase. Click here to see the blog, “As I See It.”

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...


How can the mayor and her team justify the huge projected raises in this fiscal crisis? Don't they know that Plainfiel residents are losing their homes to foreclosure? What have they done to merit any kind of raise?

11:41 AM  

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