Council Approves Deferral Plan
Facing a $3.2 million shortfall in the yet-to-be-passed budget for the year ending June 30, the alternative would have been to make drastic cuts in police, fire and public works staff, City Council President Rashid Burney said.
The city hopes to create a reserve that will lessen the impact of the future debt by allowing early repayment, officials said.
Tuesday’s special meeting to take action on the matter was necessary to meet tomorrow’s deadline, City Administrator Marc Dashield said. The council’s resolution will be faxed to Trenton Wednesday (April1, 2009).
Dashield said one of the advantages of the plan is that it will allow the city to look into the future and make cuts.
But Councilwoman Annie McWilliams said the city might better set a percentage of budget reduction and put that into the reserve. McWilliams called the plan “just really debt that my generation will have to take on.”
Councilwoman Linda Carter agreed, but added that seniors who want to stay in Plainfield will also be affected. However, she said, “We just find our hands are tied.”
Members of the public sympathized with the council’s plight, but were also dubious of the outcome.
“I don’t envy any one of you,” Dr. Harold Yood said. ”I’m glad I’m not sitting in your seat.”
Yood said the city is going into “uncharted waters” because the interest rate on the debt is not known.
Resident Frank D’Aversa asked whether the city had negotiated with unions or considered pay furloughs, among other cost-cutting strategies.
Even while admitting he is a union supporter, D’Aversa said, “You got to cut back until it hurts.”
Dashield said the city has held four sessions with unions and noted that most union contracts come due this year, saying, “actually it gives us a great opportunity” to do a lot of things.
Resident Robert Darden was less sanguine, saying pensions had been underfunded for some time.
“That’s a big hole we are digging for ourselves,” Darden said.
At the end, the council voted unanimously to seek the pension deferral, with Dashield saying the move “gives us the ability to start planning ahead,” while Councilman Adrian Mapp called the plan “a horrible piece of legislation.”
But with the 2009 budget “between a rock and a hard place,” Mapp joined his council colleagues in approving the resolution “with a great deal of reluctance.”