Paterson council rejects budget, allows employees to go back to work

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- Council members in New Jersey's third-largest city have voted down the mayor's budget, but approved a temporary appropriation that sends about 1,200 nonessential employees back to work for at least this month.

Council members Tuesday night did approve a temporary appropriation will keep roughly 1,200 city workers deemed non-essential on the job during March.

Municipal employees were forced to stay home Tuesday amid a budget showdown between the mayor and city council. Mayor Joey Torres said the city saved $225,000 by shutting down for the day. The shutdown affected school crossing guards, street-cleaning, after-school recreation programs and senior citizen services in Paterson.

About 453 police officers, firefighters, municipal court and sanitation employees were still working Tuesday.

Council members rejected Torres' budget in February over a 6.1 percent tax increase.

Garbage had not been picked up Tuesday and neither had recycling. Public cans were spilling out and two traffic lights were out without any sense of urgency to help with traffic or keep things safe, even though police and fire were on the job.

"Not too good, very angry about this we are gonna lose a lot of business," said pizza man Mario, who said the lunch business is way down because 70 percent of the city workers stayed home without pay Tuesday, and the six public libraries were closed.

One young woman with books to return to the library had no idea. "It's not the nicest time in our economy," she said.

Despite numerous requests, the mayor said he did not want to talk to us Tuesday. No one was at City Hall, not even on the City Council was talking even though almost three quarters of the workers for the first time ever did not work Tuesday.

That's almost 1,200 people, and Joanne Bottler is one of them. "I have a sick mother that I'm tending to," she said.

She works in the tax office. Her garbage was picked up, but not her neighbor's. The biggest deal for her was losing a day's pay.

The only person at Paterson's City Hall Tuesday who would talk, on or off camera, was the business administrator, Nellie Pou. "That part I can't understand, why no one in the city is speaking to you," she said. "The answer is yes, we will do everything in our power to make up that time for them so that they will not have to lose a day's pay."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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