Newark council supports Baraka's proposal to ask for state aid

By Naomi Nix | The Star-Ledger
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on August 06, 2014

NEWARK — A day after Newark mayor Ras Baraka announced he would seek financial assistance from the state in exchange for state oversight of the city's finances, the city council announced its support of the measure.

The council today approved Mayor Ras Baraka's resolution calling a memorandum of understanding and state supervision in exchange for financial assistance from the state.

Newark officials disclosed in April that the city would need more than $90 million to balance its 2014 budget. Part of the budget deficit includes a shortfall from 2013 that had to be rolled into the 2014 budget year.

Baraka said Tuesday that even if the city reduced inefficiencies and enhanced revenue collection this year, the city would need about $28 million to $30 million to close the 2014 budget gap.

While pledging no cuts to the police or fire departments, Baraka told the council that layoffs of hundreds of city employees would have been required to avoid asking the state for financial help.

Baraka stopped short of speculating about what kind of requirements the state may impose for helping the city or how long oversight would last. He said he hoped the city would eventually get to a point where it no longer needs the state's financial help.

"When we are able to take care of ourselves in the way that we need to, then we won't need them anymore," Baraka said in an interview.

Newark city council members praised Baraka's decision.

"It's admirable," said Central Ward councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins. "Thank you for not taking the easy way out."

West Ward councilman Joe McCallum said he appreciated the mayor's willingness to work with the council on the budget.

"Thank you for your transparency," McCallum said. "You have been treating us like partners."

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