Newark City Council Approves $815 Million Baraka Budget

Newark’s city council unanimously voted today to send Mayor Ras Baraka’s $815 million budget to New Jersey officials for approval, as he seeks to close a deficit that started the year at $93 million.

As part of the plan, Newark will redirect $5 million owed from the Newark Housing Authority to help settle debt, lower its payment into a state fund that administers public workers’ unemployment benefits and spread out $30 million of last year’s deficit over a decade. The state Local Finance Board, which oversees municipal finances, is scheduled to vote on the plan tomorrow in Trenton.

Baraka, who took office three months ago, said the plan is fiscally sound and will fully fund services for the current budget year in New Jersey’s largest city. His administration has already begun working on crafting its 2015 budget, he said.

“We still have some issues to deal with in 2015,” Baraka told reporters after the passage. “We essentially were working on two budgets at one time. That was basically what we were doing -- trying to get this budget passed and preparing ourselves for next year’ budget.”

Money held by the Newark Housing Authority will cover two principal and interest payments on city obligations, said Sakina Cole, a spokeswoman for Baraka, said.

Baraka, 44, released a plan Oct. 3 that calls for $16 million in spending reductions, including lowering the unemployment-fund payment because he doesn’t plan to fire workers this year. He also plans to cut expenses such as stationery, travel and software.

The budget plan requires state approval because the city is accepting $10 million in transitional aid.

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