City delivers budget before state deadline, making nobody happy

David Giambusso: Newark council grudgingly introduces $592M budget just days before deadline

The Newark City Council introduced the 2012 budget today, but they weren’t happy about it.

The $592 million spending plan was introduced four months late but six days before a state-issued ultimatum that could have threatened $24 million in aid. It includes $18 million in revenue from a proposed Municipal Utilities Authority that is likely to face stiff resistance from residents.

The plan also calls for a 3.7 percent property tax increase, which represents an additional $217 for the average homeowner.

Ledger spotlights city’s financial woes

Clock ticks as Newark grapples with budget: $24M in state aid could be riding on city’s fiscal plan

But with another $24 million in state taxpayer dollars needed for city coffers this year, it is unclear how much longer the state’s patience will hold out. If the state revokes the aid, the city will be left scrambling to cover the difference.

One of the biggest items confounding city leaders is a proposal to create a municipal utilities authority to run Newark’s troubled water system. In 2010, Booker suffered a major blow when the MUA, a linchpin in his budget plan, was tabled by the council.

Giambusso’s comprehensive overview of the city’s financial standing reveals a knotted web of interdependencies:

  • The city will be short $24M this year
  • (Well, maybe: the city’s finance department may have found $18M)
  • A water authority has again been proposed by the mayor
  • The city’s 100-year-old water infrastructure is desperately in need of repair
  • There may be a state grant to cover the gap, if the council can agree to the proposed budget
  • And residents will inevitably see a tax hike

What a mess.

Interview: West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice

With the municipal elections looming large in the coming weeks, we’ll be making an effort to interview the prospective city council candidates.

I’m pleased to present our first podcast interview this week with Councilman Ron C. Rice, representing the West Ward. In Mayor Booker’s 2009 State of the City address, he referred to Councilman Rice as the hardest working person on the Council, claiming that the Mayor’s own aggressive schedule is matched by Mr. Rice, who is also known for driving around his neighborhood late at night in his own car.

The podcast is about 30 minutes in length. Click the play button below to listen.

In the podcast, we discuss:

  • Plans for the upcoming election and the Booker Team kickoff
  • The major challenges and opportunities the Councilman sees facing the West Ward right now
  • What efforts have been undertaken to improve the West Ward, such as the Family Success Centers and the West Ward Collective
  • How Councilman Rice had seen the Ward change over his four years in office
  • How the recently-announced state budget cuts affect the West Ward and the city overall
  • How his office is leveraging technology to serve his constituency and how the city is addressing the digital divide to position residents for the 21st century workforce

To find out more about Councilman Ronald C. Rice, check out his website or follow him on Twitter at @ronaldcrice.