Palmer administration officials warned City Council Tuesday night that help may not be on the way regarding the city’s massive, $27 million budget deficit, because things aren’t looking good with the proposed sale of outlying Trenton Water Works infrastructure to private water company.
Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum dropped the bombshell as she went over some of the cost cutting measures being instituted by the city. They include the layoff of 80 city workers, the demotions of numerous fire captains, and the canceling of the hiring of additional police officers that was so highly touted by Mayor Douglas H. Palmer during his 2007 State of the City address.
But despite these measures, which some fire and police officials have labeled as a threat to public safety, the city still faces an addition $19 to $20 million budget gap if the aforementioned sale of water infrastructure doesn’t go through.
Given the frequency of tax rate hikes, water rate hikes, and the growth in the cost of government in Trenton prior to this fiscal disaster, a gap of this magnitude seriously calls into question the budget practices utilized by Mayor Palmer, who has been in power for nearly 20 years.
Residents paying for this poorly managed operation, from both the city and outside in the rest of the state, should demand an independent state audit of the city government’s financial dealings. The vast majority of money spent in Trenton is state money anyway, so demanding such action should not require too much heavy lifting or lobbying with state officials.
When it comes to this city’s fiscal practices, there is obviously something that is simply not working very well, and it needs to be taken seriously. Such fiscal mismanagement threatens any future renaissance the city could experience in the future, by threatening to bankrupt the city government and force more prohibitive tax hikes onto property owners.
There must be an immediate end to all official perks, including the use of vehicles and gasoline by employees who clearly do not require them. All expensive trips must end, and that should include special training for police officers and other officials and the purely political junkets frequently taken by Mayor Palmer.
Finally, the mayor’s protection detail must be disbanded and folded back into the Trenton Police Department to make up the growing manpower gap.
But, in the end, the best solution of all is brand-new leadership in 2010. The current government is obviously too stupid and too expensive for this city to bear, and it’s time to get a new one.