NEWARK — Newark’s City Council has frozen all municipal spending until Mayor Cory Booker delivers a budget proposal.
In a rare legislative move, the council quashed a $38 million temporary appropriation to fund the government through May 31, and promised to hold up the mayor’s agenda until they have a budget.
“He’s got to get us a spending plan,” Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif said Wednesday night. Until he does, Sharif said, “I will not vote for any item that does not directly impact the health and safety of residents.”
Newark Business Administrator Julien Neals said the city could not present a balanced budget until it negotiates with the Port Authority for an advance on future lease payments, a move needed to fill a $70 million deficit that requires state approval.
“They know that we have to get approval from the DCA to introduce that into the budget,” he said referring to the state Department of Community Affairs.
The state sent a letter to Newark recently requesting a budget by May 27, but city officials are trying to get an extension.
Neals said they could get by for a few weeks, but eventually the city would not be able to meet payroll or expenses if the council does not authorize funding.
Council members today said the mayor has had enough time to negotiate with the Port Authority and should have come up with a solution by now.
“We shouldn’t tolerate this,” said East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador. “I think we’ve had enough time to evaluate the situation.”
Booker said he had “not been briefed on the situation” today but added, “We’ve invited the council to budget hearings. None of them have come.”
Along with Sharif, council members Ras Baraka and Mildred Crump voted against the appropriation. Amador and council members Ron Rice, Anibal Ramos, Luis Quintana and president Donald Payne Jr. abstained. At-Large Councilman Carlos Gonzalez walked out of the Wednesday night meeting, in frustration.
“I think it’s unfortunate we haven’t received a budget, but we cannot penalize our employees,” he said today.