Its Schools Already Under State Control, Newark Budget May Be Next

March 10, 2014

After a months-long cold war over Newark Mayor Luis Quintana’s hiring practices and his approach to city budgeting, state officials today raised the specter of a takeover of the city’s finances.

Local Government Services director Thomas Neff raised the specter of a state takeover of Newark’s budget.

Thomas Neff, director of the state’s Division of Local Government Services, said in a letter to Quintana that his division, at its meeting on Wednesday would soon begin discussing “the level of financial stress in Newark and Newark’s lack of compliance with certain budget laws.”

However, he said, “the board will not be taking a formal vote with respect to placing Newark under supervision at this meeting,” Neff said.

Almost from the minute Quintana was appointed mayor in November, the city and state budget monitors have had an icy relationship.

The mayor ruffled feathers in Trenton when he went on a hiring spree, firing former Mayor Cory Booker’s department directors and appointing replacements without state approval, violating a memorandum of understanding between the city and state.

Quintana was appointed mayor when Booker was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Neff sent numerous letters indicating the state’s displeasure with Quintana’s actions, but his letter Friday was the most ominous to date.

If a state takeover were to happen, the state would likely have the final say over how Newark allocates its resources, who it hires and fires, and how much it charges in taxes.

Such actions would almost certainly draw widespread backlash from within the city. Newark’s schools are already under state control and the police department is expected to fall under a federal consent decree within the next few weeks.

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