Over 1,000 Employees Ordered Not to Show Up for Work in New Jersey City Government Shutdown

The New Jersey city of Paterson is bracing for a government shutdown Tuesday as over 1,000 employees have been ordered not to report to work while the mayor and city council fight over a budget gap. 

Essential city services will remain in place, including police and fire response. But garbage collection, after school programs, street cleaning and senior services were ordered suspended by the mayor Monday until further notice. 

"All non-essential employees are instructed not to report for work tomorrow, March 1," Mayor Jose Torres' office said in a news release. "Out of the city’s 1,651 city employees, 1,196 will be affected by tomorrows shut-down, which would result in a cost avoidance of $225,000 for the city."

The budget fight centers on a proposed increase in property taxes. The city council is meeting Tuesday night to decide if the taxes should go up by 6 percent. 

The alternative is to shut down city services. 

A tax hike on a $190,000 average home in Paterson would increase taxes $468 a year, or about $39 a month. The mayor argues that keeping the lights on at City Hall means that taxes have to go up in order to match the state aid.

Some council members agree: "The state is saying you have to put a little increase in there, too, in order for us to give you the help you need," said councilwoman Ruby Cotton. 

But residents say the tax hike is too much. 

"It's already high," said Audrey Foster. 

Abdul Malek, who works at a phone and computer store, said: "It's too much, and every year they're raising up the taxes." 

School crossing guard services were initially ordered suspended, but a school district official later told NBC 4 New York it has made arrangements for an emergency appropriation to contract with the crossing guards for Tuesday. 

Police Director Jerry Speziale had said officers would help man school crossings "as best we can" if crossing guard services were suspended.

Residents are being told not to place curbside garbage on Tuesday, and instead wait until next Thursday. If there's an emergency, residents can call the city hotline at 978-742-4636. 

The city's 453 essential workers, including uniformed police and fire personnel, tax collectors, city clerk, emergency management employees, public works employees, health officer and municipal court employees, will continue to work, Torres' office said. 

If the budget is approved Tuesday, the suspension of services will be lifted and all employees will be expected to return to work Wednesday.

If the budget is not approved, the suspension of services will continue until further notice, Torres' office said. 

The council vote will be updated at patersonnj.gov

"The Administration regrets this disruption and continues to work around the clock to remedy this situation. The livelihood of our employees is at hand. Our City, our residents deserve the municipal services that they are entitled and accustomed to," Torres said in a press release. 

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