In his daily communication with Hoboken residents, Mayor Ravi Bhalla today informed the community that, as a result of the struggles encountered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last night the City Council was presented with a third quarter, temporary option, for a 5 percent tax increase.
The Mayor explains further in this press release, along with updates on St. Matthew’s Trinity Lunchtime Ministry, the city’s day care facilities and a campaign by the Hoboken Public Education Foundation:
Continued impact of COVID-19 on budget
As I’ve communicated in the past, COVID-19 has made our budget much more challenging. We have been losing approximately $1 million per month, an unsustainable rate that is putting tremendous strain on our City finances. Needless to say, we will need financial assistance from the federal government through a stimulus package or legislation to help offset some of our projected revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19. This is not unique to Hoboken – municipalities and states across the country are having the same financial challenges due to projected revenue shortfalls. I have spoken to our federal elected officials, including Senator Menendez, Senator Booker, and Congressman Sires, who are fighting hard for this funding in Washington D.C.
Each year, the City produces a temporary budget before the introduction of the actual municipal budget based on the prior year’s tax rate. Since the introduction of our budget is currently delayed due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, the State Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) recommends municipalities issue estimated tax bills for the third quarter of 2020.
Anticipating the challenge of rising fixed costs along with the revenue losses due to COVID-19, the City Council was presented last night with an option for a temporary tax increase of 5% only for the third quarter. This was proposed to mitigate a potential outsized bill for taxpayer sin the fourth quarter of this year. The City Council has asked to meet with our finance team to discuss this and other options, and as a result will carry a vote on this proposal until the next council meeting.
While we plan to introduce our budget in the coming weeks to the City Council, without an understanding of federal assistance for municipalities to help make up for the COVID-19 revenue shortfalls, it is difficult to accurately forecast what the eventual tax rate will be. We are taking a conservative approach to ensure that sounds fiscal principles are abided by, and with the understanding that federal help may or may not arrive.
These are very challenging times, however we will continue to do everything possible to produce a budget that is responsible to the Hoboken taxpayer that maintains the long term financial stability of the City. For more detail on COVID-19’s impact on the estimated tax rate, please click here for a more detailed memo from the Office of the Business Administrator.
St. Matthew’s Trinity
St. Matthew Trinity Lunchtime Ministry has been remaining open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, providing important to-go coffee, food, and toiletries to our homeless and indigent guests each day. Currently, they are in need of any cleaning supplies (hand sanitizer, vinyl/latex gloves Lysol wipes, etc.). If any residents can spare any donations, they can be dropped off at 57 8th Street (corner of 8th and Hudson) every Monday to Thursday from 8:00 AM to noon.
I’ve received some questions about day cares and re-opening. Day care re-openings, like other businesses, will be guided on timelines provided by Governor Murphy and the State of New Jersey. As soon as they provide guidance to us on this and other re-openings, we will communicate that to residents.
Hoboken Public Education Foundation and COVID-19
One of the ways COVID-19 has impacted our children is the need to transition to at-home learning — requiring the availability of wi-fi and computers. I applaud all of our teachers and educators for such a fantastic job making sure our students have had the appropriate technology for online learning. The Hoboken public school district is working on plans to continue remote learning, should it be necessary. Thankfully, the non-profit organization, the Hoboken Public Education Foundation (HPEF), is launching a 1:1 Chromebook campaign to ensure every child in the district has their own Chromebook to navigate the school curriculum.
The HPEF is close to meeting this goal – if you’d like to provide assistance for this effort, please visit hobokenpef.org. Thank you very much to Mack-Cali, SJP Properties, and Academy Bus for contributing $75,000 for these efforts.
Thank you Hoboken, and please stay safe.
Ravi S. Bhalla