Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Council Rejects Further Delay, Adopts Budget

The budget for the fiscal year that began last July 1 was finally adopted Tuesday, but not before Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and supporters on the City Council pushed for another two weeks to seek union concessions.

The 4-3 vote came only after some verbal sparring between council members who sought to wrap up the budget and move on to cost-cutting measures in the next budget cycle, and those wanting the last-ditch effort. Council members William Reid, Rashid Burney and Bridget Rivers voted “no,” while Cory Storch, Adrian Mapp, Linda Carter and City Council President Annie McWilliams voted “yes.”

The council received a budget from the administration late last year that reflected a 9.6 percent tax increase, but introduced amendments Feb. 8 that reduced the increase to 7.5 percent. Although the city has a half-dozen bargaining units, Plainfield Municipal Employees Association President Cynthia Smith said her union is taking the brunt of layoffs announced last fall. Fifteen employees among the lowest-paid ranks will be out of work as of today.

Smith and affected workers have spoken out at every council meeting since the layoffs were announced. Again on Tuesday, Smith deplored the layoffs, especially that of a 34-year employee with singular knowledge of the city’s infrastructure. Four years from retirement, the person has no “bumping rights” and will take his expertise with him when he goes.

“There’s your knowledge,” Smith said.

Other layoffs will affect office workers who support Recreation Division programs. Several speakers in Tuesday’s public hearing on the amendments called on the council to save the workers for the sake of residents of all ages who benefit from the programs.

“I hear about the pain,” resident Roland Crawford Muhammad said, referring to the council’s mantra of sharing the budget pain. “I can handle the pain, but our children cannot.”

Muhammad said if children can’t learn to shoot pool, they will learn to shoot guns, citing gun violence last week that resulted in the death of one man and injuries to another.

Much of the nearly two-hour meeting was taken up with discussion of the results of further delay. City Administrator Bibi Taylor said a delay would mean starting over with budget amendments. Estimated tax bills would have to be sent out, incurring extra printing costs.

But Robinson-Briggs said a state notice on bumping rights would shift employees into jobs they had no idea how to do. Someone from the City Clerk’s office is slated to go to Inspections, a secretary in the mayor’s office will go to Municipal Court.

“The bumping rights will put us in a state of chaos,” Robinson-Briggs said as she pleaded for two more weeks to sit down with the unions and find ways to avoid layoffs.

McWilliams said Civil Service bumping rights are “systemic” and there is nothing the council can do. Once the budget is adopted, she said, the administration can work with the unions.

But Reid said, “I don’t want to vote for something that is a hope.”

“I can’t believe that we are sitting here going through this loop over and over,” Mapp said as the discussion wore on.

Mapp said the council had discussed in closed session the amendments’ impact on personnel.

“We are now here at the eleventh hour and having a back-and-forth discussion,” he said, calling further delay “a disservice to the taxpayers” and asking for the vote.

Budget passage means tax bills can now be sent out, Bob Swisher of the auditing firm Supplee, Clooney said. The council on Feb. 8 approved temporary emergency appropriations for March, meaning three quarters of the budget year will have elapsed before normal tax collection.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard the Council now approved to fund the Mayor's confidential aide. An item the Mayor herself had taken out last year.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason the tax increase came down is because of the extraordinary aid we got from the state. Otheriwse council increases are a wash because of all the increases they also put in.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Again the normal Assistant Mayor Sharon supporters will not see through her johnny-come-lately smoke screen. She has HAD MONTHS to even try this and now she is pleading for a few more weeks to speak to the unions. These should have been completed last summer, last fall or even before, dare I say, the LAST ELECTION. But about rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titantic...
And I will say this. Because of HER ineptitude..that person who is 4years from retirement loses their job. R-Briggs is SOLELY responsible for that. She could have worked during the year to actually help this budget to not get to the do or die point. Congratulations Mayor Sharon on being such a slouch.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with 9:48am. The budget was to be approved for 2010 by June 30, 2009.

It was an election year, so the budget was introduced after the election, which she won. Would the results have been the same if she introduced the budget in a timely manner?

Then, with 4 months LEFT, she pleads for another two weeks. Where was she in July of 2009?

And, remember Planfielders, the mayor's budget was an increase of 9.6%. The council reduced it by 2 percentage points. Do the math and see how much more you would be paying. For me, the council saved me $250.00. For those who voted for the budget, thank you. For those who voted against, some had real compassionate reasons. Others, I am not so sure.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately those cheerleaders for recreation apparently thought or were told the programs were going to be impacted. Actually the seasonal line was completely left alone so the people who have been running those programs for years will continue and dave wynn can now sit in his office alone and be the true dictator he is but the programs will be ok.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is simply ridiculous. From the council to the mayor. A 7.5 % increase is absurd and combine that with my ever increasing PMUA bill (now at $2100 year). I can no longer afford to live in this city. If crime weren't a problem and the schools not failing my $10k tax bill per year might be acceptable.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot belive there is such a love fest going on between the bloggers and the New Dems who supported a 7.5% tax increase.

How does one keep up with such tax increases year over year? Even my clum lord cannot keep paying these high taxes. So what does he do? Cut down on maintenence and pkeep of my apratemnt building. He told me so! He lives in Scotch Plains and his kids go to a nice school.

You all just keep increasing our taxes.

10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting - both local bloggers focused on the politics and personalities of the situation.

Both newspapers focused on the issues raised by residents.

6:32 PM  

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