Hoboken’s 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher discusses the city budget in her latest newsletter:
Continuing with similar graphics, this is how the mayor’s flat tax budget compares to the proposed City Council amendment:
- Rent Control – here we basically added enough funding to restore the office that had been significantly reduced by the administration last year. Down from three to just one person to run an effort that touches thousands of Hoboken residents – both tenants and landlords – the majority of the City Council insisted that the rightsizing Mayor Bhalla talked about in his budget include reinvesting in this critical department. I joined Councilwoman Falco and Council VP Giattino and met with the head of the Rent Control office to discuss what was necessary for the office to be a fully functioning service to the members of our community. This included adding back the 2-3 people that had been laid off, adding a transcription service for Rent Control Board meetings (like other municipal boards), updating very old computers and technology, and investing in digitizing the departments paper files. The latter has been a priority of the City Council at least as long as I have been on the City Council, but never actioned. In aggregate, this came to increasing the budget by $150k.
- Castle Point Terrace and Court Street Repairs and Rehabilitation. Most of the roads in Hoboken are resurfaced every several years which is fairly easy given they are asphalt. But these two roads – both non-traditional surfaces of brick and cobbles and very old – are some of Hoboken’s most historic and to the best of anyone’s knowledge, have never been fully repaired. Both are effectively showing signs of collapsing and are at a point where safety is now a driver behind a restoration project. A process started two years ago for both these roads that was paused. But this budget reignites both and includes $250K for the capital improvement fund as the requisite down payment towards what has been estimated to be a $5M project to restore both.
- Salary Adjustments – reducing what was a $1.1M increase by $1M. These are reserves for future salary increases. The amendment maintains $660K which is still 32% higher than last year. Although I support some level of “accruing” for future salary increases, the overriding view is that ARP funds should prioritize taxpayers today and not soften financial discipline and transparency on cost increases like salary and wages in the future.
- Reserve for Tax Appeals – eliminating what was a $0.75M increase. The amendment maintains $250K which is the same as last year. The city has $3M in our tax appeal fund and has not exceeded payouts of 700k in any year and is mostly much less. So even at $250k we have more than enough to fund tax appeals and better allocate these savings to taxpayers today.
- COVID Salaries – reducing further by $.5M what was effectively already a $0.35M decrease relating to both salary and other COVID expenses for 2020. The amendment still maintains $500K which is approximately 5,000 OT hours this year, or 100 hrs / week, if you assume an average OT rate of $100/hr. This anticipates reduced COVID needs this year vs. 2020. If this changes, we would expect future COVID funding sources would again be available for all cities impacted.
- Hoboken Parking Utility – reducing by $.5M what was a $1.1M/ 51% increase. Well above historic spending with no justification provided made this increase fall into the “excessive” category. The amendment still leaves $.6M of an increase in, or 30%, keeping closer to historic levels and reallocated the rest to give taxpayers a benefit this year.
- Election Costs – reducing by $140K of what was a $184K/245% increase. Increase assumes 100% possibility of runoffs in November in our local elections. At this point there is nothing to suggest this will be the case. As we have done on other occasions with other situations where a potential event triggers increased spending – like the possibility of July 4th fireworks returning to the Hudson – we address the event as and when instead of budgeting for it. Being November, if there is a runoff, we can make a line-item transfer at the time to fund additional costs over and above what is budgeted.
- Police Salary and Wages – reducing by $100K what was a $770K / 4.4% increase. The proposed cut still results in an almost 4% annual increase and considers Chief Ferrante’s retirement and timing of future hirings and promotions.
- Corporation Counsel Salary and Wages – reducing by $80K what was an $86K / 20% increase. Keeps staffing levels at one Law Department head, two associate corporation counsels and one legal administrator. If the Mayor requires a third assistant corporation counsel to effectively be a full time legal advisor to the mayor’s office then he / we should consider moving this role and funding need back to the mayor’s office.
- Parks Salary and Wages – reducing by $50K what was a $314K / 71% increase. Maintained a $264K / 60% increase vs 2020 budget (and 23% increase vs. 2019 budget). The $50K cut is equivalent to one employee.
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