The Bayonne City Council approved a 30-day hiring freeze as they search to fill a $15 million gap in the proposed $135.5 million municipal budget for 2016.
The $15 million budget gap is the result of Kate Howard LTD, the developer for Harbor Station South, backing out of a deal with the city this past week.
Peter Cresci, an owner of four city properties who advocated for a tax reval, accused the city council of spending money that it doesn’t have and for trying to dissolve the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority (BMUA) for an additional expense of approximately $300,000.
“And we have to come up with $15 million? What sense does it make to dissolve the BMUA to take on their debt and their employees, for something that probably should be a two man shop?”
Terrance Malloy, the Bayonne chief financial officer, argued that the BMUA “currently have zero debt.”
“Except that you would agree that, it’s probably $300,000 to $400,000 in salaries and benefits and pension packages,” argued Cresci.
During the hearing Malloy also pointed out that there were additional attempts to control costs, such as choosing the lower option for healthcare and the cost of the ambulance service contract is now zero dollars.
“But,” questioned Cresci “what does that tell you? That we were getting ripped off for the last 5-7 years? Paying for something that he was billing on to third parties that he comes in with zero dollars?”
Peter Franco, another staunch critic of the Mayor Jimmy Davis administration, shared the same sentiments as Cresci.
“Recently we just learned there were 119 new hires total, we have to look at this stuff.”
Malloy explained, “I’m the first person to argues We should do a freeze, no we shouldn’t replace those 15 policemen who retired, or we shouldn’t do this but the reality is: if we cut services too much, and police being the prime example, we then become a town that people do not want to live in and a town that people don’t want to invest in.”
Franco also told Council President Sharon Nadrowski that paying additional salaries and pensions are generally seen as a burden for residents.
“Madame president, with all due respect, If we don’t’ have it, we shouldn’t spend it. And it’s not your money, it’s our money.”
Towards the end of the council meeting, Bayonne 3rd Ward Councilman Gary La Pelusa, motioned a hiring freeze to help fix the current $20M in structural deficit and to meet the $15 million budget gap.
“I motion to disable it, it’s kind of just thrown up here and I think its needs reworking,” explained Nadrowski. “I don’t think we can say unilaterally that we won’t be hiring anymore police officers or firefighters.”
“You can always make a resolution later to add those people,” La Pelusa responded.
It was Bayonne Business Administrator Joe DeMarco who suggested to “work the resolution to have a temporary hiring freeze and formalize that if you chose to. You may want to sit with your police and fire director to see if you there’s any personnel that you need to hire.”
It was a unanimous vote to adopt a resolution tabling further consideration of the 2016 budget until May 16th and approving a 30-day temporary hiring freeze.
The current budget would call for a 2.64 percent tax increase, which comes out to a $121 annual increase for the average Bayonne resident.