Administration to council: don’t change the budget

City Council members were told not to use their statutory power to review and possibly make serious changes to the Trenton city budget Tuesday, because any significant revisions would delay further a budget that outlines a fiscal year that is nearly 70 percent complete, according to Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum.

Trenton faces another tax hike this year to make up for a budget shortfall, and will likely face another next year, simply due to inflation and poor economic growth that saw Trenton’s ratables grow by only $8 million in value this past year.

The proposed budget carries a tax rate increase of 12 cents, raising the municipal tax rate from $2.33 per $100 of assessed value to $2.45 per $100, which means a person with a home valued at $100,000 will have to pay an additional $120 annually.

One resident said that to break even with inflationary and recessionary economic forces, Trenton’s $2 billion in ratables would have to grow by more than $200 million next year, which would be nearly impossible, barring some economic miracle.

Ms. Feigenbaum laid out a strict timeline for the budget to City Council officials that left little or no time for oversight and review, because serious amendments would require resubmitting the budget to state agencies, only further delaying the adoption of the document.

Trenton apparently faces some sort of time-crunch because of the usage of estimated tax bills to collect revenue, according to finance official Ron Zilinsky.

City Council members were also told, curiously, that they could not cut the budget significantly or remove staff positions by Ms. Feigenbaum, who said that the body had already implied agreement with the majority of the budget previously.

Trenton’s council representatives have not been provided with simple Microsoft Excel version of the document, which would expedite review, having only PDF or paper copies of the document, which results in a complicated, nearly undecipherable 300-page packet of information.

The delay on the budget is due in part to wait time for the millions of dollars in extra funds from the state’s distressed cities funds, although city officials this year maintained Trenton does not fall in that category.

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