Embattled NJ Towns Closer to Getting State Aid

Wednesday, 30 Nov 2011 03:31 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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New Jersey’s financially troubled towns may get state help, with Democrats agreeing to meet Gov. Chris Christie’s demands for the state to oversee aid plans. Democratic legislators and Christie have been in a six-month standoff over the funding issue, which, if passed, will give aid to 11 municipalities, said the Bergen County Record.
 
The Democrats’ bill would grant $149 million to the cities, with another $1.5 million budgeted to finance state oversight of the program.
 
The towns would split the money, with the largest amounts going to going to Camden, $61.4 million; Trenton, $22 million; and Paterson, $21 million. Union City, Asbury Park, Lawnside, Chesilhurst, Harrison, Maurice River, Penns Grove, and Prospect Park would split the rest.
 
Christie in June line-item vetoed $139 million out of the state budget, leaving just $10 million to help the cities, objecting to Democrats removing a clause allocating 1 percent of the total for oversight.
 
"I’m not going to send the income tax money of New Jerseyans to cities in distress unless I can ensure them we have the oversight that’s necessary that that money will be spent wisely and not wasted," Christie said at a press conference in Camden this week.
 
The Democrats’ new proposal adds an extra $1.5 million, rather than docking 1 percent of the total $149 million.
 
"Whenever the state promises aid to anyone they should deliver every penny, not reduce it for bureaucratic expenses on the back-end," said Derek Roseman, spokesman for the Senate Democrats. "If there needs to be an additional $1.5 million cut elsewhere, we will be happy to have that discussion."
 
Christie criticized the Democrats’ new plan, noting the state already has a $210 million shortfall, but said he’s open for discussions.
 
The state’s Department of Community Affairs will oversee the towns getting the money, and will help them find ways to cut costs, and approve hirings and contracts. The money is considered “transitional” and is intended to help towns wean off state aid.
 
Bill Dressel, executive director of the State League of Municipalities, says he’s happy with the plan, but wants legislators to hurry with the bill so towns can avoid cash flow problems.

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