A couple months ago, the Plainfield City Council adopted an ordinance creating a Board of Recreation Commissioners for the purpose of expanding recreational opportunities for our youth and senior citizens. On the tenth day after its final adoption, the ordinance creating the Commission was vetoed by the Mayor. This past Monday, an attempt to override her veto failed by a vote of 4 to 3; five votes were required.
Hence, those of us who supported the ordinance must now respect the outcome of Monday’s meeting and look for other ways to expand the City’s recreation programs. The beauty of our democracy is that the outcome of the vote is always respected, and people on both sides of the vote always find a way to move forward, in spite of their differences. Now is the time for us to do just that - move forward.
Given that the Commission was vetoed by the Mayor, and given the outcome of Monday’s meeting, it is important for us on the governing body to respond appropriately by providing the required level of funding necessary to ensure retention of the current full-time staff. The question is, how do we do that and remain in compliance with the applicable New Jersey state statute? The proposal that was advanced by the Mayor and her and Administration, in the form of resolutions R105, R106 and R107 was illegal under NJSA 40A:4-46 quoted below:
40A:4-46. Emergency appropriations
A local unit may make emergency appropriations, after the adoption of a budget, for a purpose which is not foreseen at the time of the adoption thereof, or for which adequate provision was not made therein. Such an appropriation shall be made to meet a pressing need for public expenditure to protect or promote the public health, safety, morals or welfare or to provide temporary housing or public assistance prior to the next succeeding fiscal year.
In light of the statute quoted above, I could not, in good conscience, knowingly support a funding request disguised as an emergency that was a clear violation of the law. It is for this reason that I could not and did not support any of the three resolutions referenced above.
However, I am willing to support a transfer resolution that would restore full funding to the Division of Recreation. Therefore, in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, I will be suggesting to the Administration that it prepare a transfer resolution for adoption by the council in May, and I will encourage my colleagues to support such a transfer request. Everything will be done in compliance with the law, to provide for wholesome recreational opportunities for all in the City who need them. This is a pledge and a commitment.
As to the Purchasing Department, a different idea should be considered; that idea is called a Purchasing Shared Services Agreement. Although I know that purchasing is the responsibility of the CFO in all municipalities where a QPA has not been appointed by the governing body, I am still sensitive to the fact that the CFO is part time and may need more time to get his arms around the many challenging financial issues facing the City.
Therefore, I am proposing a shared service agreement between the City and the Board of Education that would buy the CFO some time, and allow for the Qualified Purchasing Agent from the BOE to be shared with the City. Shared services performed at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness, and with measurable benefits that flow to the bottom line must be pursued as part of the solution to the financial crisis we face in Plainfield. The 2% cap, the $4 million budget gap, and the need for property tax stabilization and relief are the sign posts by which we must be guided. It is to this end that I am proposing a Purchasing Shared Services Agreement for the mutual benefit of the City and the BOE.
I will be asking Council President McWilliams to place this on the agenda for discussion at our April meeting. Just like the CFO for a municipality is almost always the Treasurer of School Monies and is responsible for signing checks and reconciling the bank accounts for the BOE, for a stipend, there can be a similar arrangement with the QPA at the BOE to provide purchasing services to the City for an agreed upon amount that would result in major savings.
There should be no doubt, in anyone’s mind, about our commitment to doing what we believe to be in the City’s best interest, without fear or favor, and without malice. I, for one, will always strive to be guided by the dictates of my conscience; I will compromise when the situation warrants, and I will reverse course when a new direction is required.
Hence, I will support the restoration of funding, by way of a budget transfer in May, to the salary and wage line in the Recreation Division, and I will advocate for a Purchasing Shared Services Agreement with the BOE.
It is my hope, that in these very challenging times, reason will triumph over emotion, verbal hostility will give way to civil discourse, and that collaboration with results will be the fruit of our collective labor. We must all stop and take a deep breath, exhale the impurities affecting our thoughts, and breathe the fresh air of cooperation that is essential to our success.