Revised Linden Budget Nears Approval

LINDEN – City Council members approved a slightly revised $92.4 million 2008 budget last week, a month after rejecting a proposed $92.6 million budget. It would increase taxes by $277.55 for the average city homeowner.

The latest budget, which passed on first reading 8-1 on June 17, cuts $154,796 from the original proposal that the council rejected. Lawmakers said the budget’s long-term impact, which will benefit from the consolidation of several city departments, will provide Linden with a stable financial foundation for the future.

There will be a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on July 15 at City Hall before the council makes a final vote on it.

At last week’s meeting, councilmen Jack Sheehy and Derek Armstead expressed reservations about the current budget proposal, suggesting that more cuts and department consolidations may be necessary.

Mayor Richard Gerbounka supported this budget proposal, though he called for even greater fiscal austerity and more consolidation. He still supports the idea of unpaid mandatory days off for city employees, possible layoffs for nonessential workers and reduced salaries for current board secretaries.

Council President Robert Bunk cast the lone dissenting vote against the budget proposal last Tuesday, while councilmen Gene Davis and Charles Crane were absent.

The council also adopted an ordinance consolidating the Department of Recreation and Community Services, the Department of Public Property and the Department of Transportation into the Department of Public Property and Community Services. According to officials, the city will save $403,000 from the recreation department consolidation. Jobs will not be cut because of consolidation, but the city’s work force will be reduced through attrition.

The council approved on first reading two other moves that should save money in the future: a proposal to fold 911 emergency dispatch into the police department, and a proposal to consolidate the automotive maintenance division into the Department of Municipal Garage.

One city resident suggested that council members need to lead by example and forgo their city medical benefits. Councilwoman Michelle Yamakaitis has already given up her medical benefits voluntarily.

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