Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Burney Urges Budget Passage

If state budget decisions are not made soon, City Council President Rashid Burney is urging the city to wrap up its own budget next month.

Part of the municipal formula has been an infusion of “extraordinary state aid,” typically running to hundreds of thousands of dollars for tax relief. The aid for municipalities whose fiscal year begins July 1 has normally been announced by late fall, but this has been anything but a normal budget season. The city’s hopes of having a budget in place by December were dashed by unprecedented problems at both the federal and state level and the Plainfield administration is now proposing emergency appropriations through April, leaving just two months in the 2009 fiscal year for adjustments.

Municipalities may use one-twelfth of the prior year’s budget each month until passage of the new budget, but the longer the process takes, the less opportunity there is to make cuts.

To keep cash flowing for city operations, officials recently gave Tax Collector Marie Glavan the power to set an interim tax rate so that bills could be sent out for the third quarter of the fiscal year.

Given conditions caused by a global fiscal crisis, Burney has taken the stance that state aid may be insignificant this year and perhaps nonexistent next year, so the city might as well complete the budget process without further delay.

In past years, if a municipality has not struck a budget by the third quarter of the year, the state Department of Community Affairs has stepped in and set a budget figure. Officials could not say Monday whether there was a deadline for state intervention in the current circumstances.

--Bernice Paglia


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