Newark city council passes baton on budget introduction

By Naomi Nix/The Star-Ledger
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on June 30, 2014

NEWARK — Newark City Council today failed to introduce the city's 2014 budget, and instead passed on the responsibility of unveiling the fiscal plan to the incoming administration.

The budget was not introduced because the council did not have a quorum for today's scheduled meeting.

"Unfortunately, some people are not able to be here," city council President Mildred Crump said.

West ward councilman Ron Rice, East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador, North Ward councilman Anibal Ramos and at-large Councilman Carlos Gonzalez did not attend the meeting.

In addition to Crump, South Ward councilman and mayor-elect Ras Baraka, at-large councilman John Sharpe James and Central Ward councilman Darrin Sharif were at today's meeting.

Both Baraka and Crump have urged Mayor Luis Quintana's administration to propose a budget before new city representatives take office Tuesday. He said any complaints about the spending plan would not be blamed on Quintana.

"We still have to do negotiations with the state anyway," Baraka said in an interview earlier this month "It's not like we are just trying to throw it on Luis."

But council members pushed back today saying, introducing the budget should be the job of the incoming administration.

"It's passing the buck I believe," said At-large Councilman Carlos Gonzalez. "I don't think that should be the responsibility of the outgoing mayor."

The North Ward councilman agreed, arguing that proposing a budget should be Baraka's responsibility.

“We are already six months into the budget year. What’s the rush now?," Ramos said in a statement. "I’d prefer to wait a few more weeks to allow the Baraka administration time to put their own stamp on the budget.”

West Ward councilman Ron Rice, At-large Councilman Augusto Amador and At-large Councilman Carlos Gonzalez also said they were concerned about some of the revenue projections in the budget.

The council's last regularly scheduled meeting was Tuesday, but officials scheduled a special meeting for today in case the legislative body was in a position to introduce the budget.

On June 24, city business administrator Julien Neals's office gave city council members a copy of the city's internal version of the 2014 budget.

But council members need to receive the version that is sent to the state for review before they could vote to introduce it. That version was received on Friday, according to the City Clerk's Office.

The proposed budget outlines a spending plan for the city that totals about $510 million, not including revenue that is sent to the Newark public school system and county government.

The proposed budget also raises the property tax rate from $2.953 to $3.090 for every $100 of assessed value.

In April, city officials told investors in a public offering statement that Newark faced a $93
million deficit for 2014 and they did not know when the mayor would be able to propose a budget.

State statute requires the mayor to propose a budget by February 7 and for the city council to introduce the budget by March 14, city officials said.

But the city, like other municipalities, is often late in introducing a budget. Both the 2012 and 2013 proposed budgets were not introduced until July.

Crump said today the new council may vote to introduce the budget, drafted by the administration, during its first meeting following the inauguration.

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