PATERSON, N.J. — The city’s budget battle is now impacting children’s programs and the city’s two public pools. All will close for the summer season prematurely on August 21, leaving working parents without childcare and some 400 seasonal employees out of a job.
“I pay taxes, I pay a lot of taxes. I am a homeowner. And I pay enough to have a new pool in our city, to have new parks. And we don’t have any of that,” said Janet Aguilar, a resident of the city’s Hillcrest section.
Budget problems in Paterson resulted in a one-day citywide government shut down in March. The battle continues between the Mayor and City Council to fix the city’s finances.
Mayor Jose Torres has been fighting for a tax increase.
"Unfortunately, the impact of budget cuts, demanded by the Municipal Council, will prove detrimental for the city,” Torres said.
Council members overwhelmingly opposed the Mayor’s tax hike proposal. On July 6 and 12, they voted down the tax levy.
On July 19 the Mayor put forward a revised resolution that included $7 million in additional budget reductions, and the tax levy. This resolution was also voted down.
"Since the city does not have approval from the City Council to set the preliminary municipal tax levy, we are therefore prohibited from establishing and mailing the estimated tax bills for August 1 and November 1”, said the Mayor. "Our inability to mail the tax bills prevents us from collecting revenues, thus creating a major cash flow problem hindering our ability to pay for vital city operational services, including our summer camps and pools, which fall within our first three month temporary budget.”
Seasonal workers at one of the public pools estimated that on a hot day like today, as many as 1,000 kids will come for a swim.
“I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do,” said Jakyia Royster. She depends on the city’s recreation department for a job and summer childcare. The recreation department runs summer camps, sports programs and other activities for kids.
“To be honest this was a job for me that was gonna help me become a little more situated in life,” said Royster.
Some of recreation programs provide free meals to children on weekdays, and an estimated 400 receive 4 meals to take home on weekends.
“I just ask that our Mayor and City Council sit down and realize, like this is 0.1 percent year-round of the budget,” said Benjie Wimberly, Paterson's Recreation Coordinator. "This is maybe a savings of $200,000-$250,000.”