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Downtown Paterson business district chief getting 33 percent pay increase

The man running the downtown Paterson business district is receiving a 33 percent salary increase.

Orlando Cruz, who became the manager of the district in December 2018, will see his salary increase from $45,000 to $60,000.

Cruz faced questions at the City Council over the increase listed in the Downtown Paterson Special Improvement District’s 2020 budget on Tuesday.

“So, the board approved your increase?” asked councilman Luis Velez.

“Correct,” answered Cruz. He said the budget was approved by the district’s board in January, three months before Covid-19 and the accompanying lockdown that devastated businesses in downtown Paterson.

Cruz said the district did not reduce services during the pandemic.

Velez said businesses and property owners are in “financial distress.” He asked whether the businesses can afford this budget given the state of business.

“98% of our properties are made up of property owners and not business owners, so if you’re referring to some businesses being closed down, those are tenants of the property not necessarily the property owners,” said Cruz.

“You don’t think there’s a domino effect?” said Velez. He suggested if businesses are suffering property owners are likely suffering as well.

Velez said circumstances have changed since January.

“Luckily, none of our businesses have been shut down, and they’re all up and running and have been doing very well since the reopening,” said Cruz.

Cruz said the board is comfortable with the increase in the budget.

Irwin Bailey, a member of the Board of Directors, said Cruz was “way under” when he started at $45,000.

“This is an adjustment to bring him up to where he should have been from the beginning,” said Bailey on Wednesday morning. “Orlando is doing a wonderful, wonderful job. He’s out there every day. He is working his butt off. He is doing the best he can with the limited resources that we have available to him.”

Documents before the council states his salary is increasing from $45,000 to $65,000. But Cruz said those documents were revised and the actual increase is from $45,000 to $60,000. His predecessor was earning $72,000 with health benefits. Cruz said he does not receive benefits.

Cruz came into the job with the understanding that his performance would be assessed six months in and salary adjusted. That assessment was done a year later, he said, leading to the salary adjustment in the current budget.

The downtown business district handles the upkeep and marketing of downtown Paterson. It also puts on events such as Christmas tree lighting and 4th of July fireworks.

The district’s overall budget increased to $315,000 in 2020, up from $304,000 the previous year. $200,000 of that budget is spent on keeping downtown Paterson clean.

The property owners, through a special tax, fund the district’s operations.

Cruz is the husband of school board member Oshin Castillo. Castillo also serves in mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration as health and human services director.

Cruz also works as an aide to assemblyman Benjie Wimberly.

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