Newark, N.J., makes drastic budget cuts, including toilet paper
A $70 million budget shortfall is going to cause additional discomfort for Newark, N.J., employees: the city is cutting out toilet paper for city hall bathrooms. Even the city’s police and fire departments are certain to see cuts, Mayor Cory Booker said in a press conference Wednesday.
Booker said that the cuts were necessary because the city council had rejected a budget he proposed in June in an effort to meet the budget gap. “I accept their decision. But, now that leaves us with an incredible financial issue, that we have no budget and a $70 million hole that we have no direction from the municipal council onto how we are to fill,” Booker said.
All contracts not related to core services, such as public safety, will be cut, Booker said. All city pools will be closed by August, a move expected to save a quarter of a million dollars, and there will be no gasoline provided for city vehicles that are not protecting the city’s safety and welfare. The cuts also include not buying toilet paper for city offices, cutting the work-week to four days for non-uniformed city workers (equivalent to a 20 percent pay cut) and scrapping city holiday decorations.
Booker also said that because the city’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, has refused to give concessions on things like uniform or gas allowances, there will be cuts to the police department. “We know now, unequivocally, given the state of crisis that we’re in now, that there’s no avoiding the police and fire layoffs,” he said. “There’s no avoiding it unless we find a way quickly to get a $70 million revenue stream into the city of Newark.”
Booker said the city council must avoid increasing taxes to meet the budget shortfall. Because the third quarter tax bills have already gone out, the mayor says, if the council chooses to raise taxes to meet the budget gap, residents would receive an entire year’s worth of the increase in their fourth quarter tax bills. “People will see tax bills into the thousands [of dollars], and it will ultimately mean massive foreclosure rates, massive delinquency rates, and other challenges that we might have,” Booker said.
“There’s no choice now,” Booker said. “The draconian cuts in the budget I proposed in June — the public safety separations, the 650 layoffs — all those things are going to happen, but now we’re going to have to go even deeper into what’s happened. These steps in total will not cover a $70 million budget gap. More must be done.”
Booker finished by asking residents to “bear with” the city during the upcoming cuts to service. “The reality is, if we do not take the pain now, the greater pain we have to face is yet to come,” Booker said.
Watch Booker’s press conference.