Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Robinson-Briggs administration reneging on budget 'teamwork'?

There was something surreal about the proceedings at Monday's Plainfield City Council session.

When Council President Annie McWilliams got to the third section of the agenda, Acting City Administrator Dan Williamson gave a budget status update that included circulating to the Council a memo from CFO Ron Zilinski that estimated the City would exceed the 2% budget increase cap by $3.4 million in the upcoming FY2012 budget year. (This is without even considering that the entire overtime allocation for FY2011 is nearly -- if not already -- spent out, as Williamson admitted.)

As jaw-dropping as the amount of the shortfall was the Robinson-Briggs administration's response.

Williamson's announcement generated two immediate queries from Councilors.

Councilor Bill Reid was skeptical, insisting that Zilinski be hauled before the Council to explain himself. All along through the last budget cycle Reid seemed unwilling to face the long-term, structural fiscal problems the city faces and showed an unwillingness to take on the fiscal discipline needed -- all the while railing against his own property taxes.

Councilor Storch, on the other hand, wanted to know from Williamson when the 'team approach' to the budget which he proposed (see here), and the Council adopted, would begin.

Williamson's answer?

'The Administration will begin the team approach at some point', he said, beginning to sound like his predecessor Marc (I'll-get-back-to-you-on-that) Dashield.

The whole thrust of the Council's approach in the past few months has been that things are SO SERIOUS, and of SUCH A STRUCTURAL NATURE, that year-round budget planning offers the ONLY HOPE of coping with the City's fiscal crisis.

In her remarks, the substance of which she had not shared with Council President McWilliams before being given the privilege of the floor, Mayor Robinson-Briggs COMPLETELY AVOIDED ANY MENTION of the serious budget shortfall.

Robinson-Briggs instead focused on the Council's failure to confirm her PMUA nominations, splashing gasoline on the rhetorical fires by asserting that her nominees 'feel discriminated against'.

She then proceeded to tell the taxpayers in attendance that there were many 'free services' undertaken jointly by the PMUA and the DPW that they may be unaware of, and cited a cleanup of the Baptist and Methodist cemeteries on Plainfield Avenue (which she incorrectly identified as 'city-owned'). All I have to say is if the cleanup took place while workers were on the clock, there was nothing 'free' about it -- unless Her Honor is rewriting the dictionary.

And all the while no mention of the elephant in the room, the $3.4 million projected revenue gap to be met.

As if this weren't enough, after Robinson-Briggs spoke and the Council got back to its agenda, Acting City Administrator Williamson produced three proposed resolutions from the Administration calling for EMERGENCY APPROPRIATIONS that would in effect roll back the budget struck by the Council, with further potential consequences ferreted out by Councilor Storch.

The three resolutions -- none of which had enough support among Councilors to be put on Monday's business meeting agenda -- were different formulations for restoring monies to various combinations involving the Mayor's appropriation, Purchasing and Recreation.

Councilors McWilliams and Storch reminded all that this would mean EVEN MORE LAYOFFS for the FY2012 budget, which Councilor Reid was reluctant to agree would be the case.

Upon close questioning by Councilor Storch, it came out that if the LAYOFFS ALREADY CONTEMPLATED by the FY2011 budget were not effected within 120 days of the State's approval, a NEW LAYOFF PLAN would have to be submitted -- meaning that all savings intended by the adopted budget would be obviated.

I suspect chicanery by the Robinson-Briggs administration.

Which hardly portends well for the idea of BUDGET TEAMWORK envisioned by the Council.

The Courier noted such a conciliatory atmosphere at the Council reorganization and the Mayor's State of The City Address that its story was titled 'Plainfield leaders pledge cooperation in 2011' (see here).

Seems that Mayor Robinson-Briggs' interpretation of 'cooperation' is the same as 'my way or the highway'.

So, what's new?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Sounds like it's time for a takeover of Plainfield by the state. Then put in Christie's axe to the busget by way of chopping the salaries of all Plainfield employees starting with that horrible, incompetent excuse for a Mayor.
Then cut taxes and give the poor citizens a new administration that cares about them and not how to rip them off.

Rob said...

Wow...she isn't cooperating??
When did she start showing this new behavior ? So unlike her.
Maybe the council will simply throw decorum to the wind and start treating her like she needs to be treated. A divisive, immature stone waller with ZERO management skills. With Reid and Rivers hiding behind her skirt ( really..could those 2 at least not try to look like they live and breathe for Sharon and Jerry -- hint hint..self respect is actually considered an attribute, would you 2 try and get it back please?? )
Again the taxpayers are going to be left holding the bag, the Mayor will have stonewalled everyone right to the end with the help of Rivers and Reid ( how do you 2 look in the mirror in the morning ? )and she will be crying to everyone who will listen how she was forced into the situation by an uncooperative City Council.
There...since we KNOW that's how it's going to play out, how about the City Council simply beat her down NOW and let the public see for themselves what she truly is all about...
The City Council continually treating the Mayor with the respect that is due that office is of no use to the taxpayers of Plainfield. She wants to play games and be the child..treat her as such. A few rounds of continuous beat downs making it to the paper will be enough to start getting her to at least shut her mouth and go crying to Jerry..either one will be an improvement.

Bob said...

I think we need to remove this mayor before she does more damage to out city, and perhaps the council members who are not ready to go into emergency mode before the city goes bankrupt.

The mayor's behavior would make here a great politician to be in Trenton, as they seem to not feel the tax payers' pain. "OFF WITH THEIR HEADS."

Anonymous said...