As the City of Hoboken’s municipal budget remains under review by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, the city council voted down a new budget amendment after marginal discussion Wednesday evening.
The amendment was a resolution introduced by Council members-at-Large James Doyle and Emily Jabbour came two weeks after the council voted to approve a preliminary $117 million revised budget that would reduce around $836,000 in spending.
Doyle explained that the latest amendment would only cut spending by about $240,000 and said that he would’ve never okayed the previous version if he had the chance to read it.
“I would not have voted for that amendment had I known that there were differences that I could not have possibly been aware of because we got the amendments during the meeting itself,” he stated.
“With that being said, this is less of an amendment, this is about a $240,000 decrease from the original as opposed to the $835,000 dollar decrease amendment.”
Jabbour also explained her rationale for the more modest budget cuts, alluding to the fact that she felt some politics were at play. While she didn’t mention it directly, the previously approved budget would have cut $115,000 from the mayor’s office.
“I think some of the items included in the budget that was discussed at our last meeting are quite targeted in a way, an overreach, a thinly veiled attempt to seek revenge, I guess I’ll call it,” she began.
” … I think given the way that our governing body is structured, there are overreaches to the way this budget was considered … I just don’t think it’s our place to tell some directors that they can give salary increases to some staff, but in some places were telling people that they can’t have salary increases – I just don’t think that’s our role.”
Interestingly, 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo said that his colleagues both for and against the mayor had not set realistic expectations of how this budget would turn out.
“The way this government works, the mayor cannot stop us from creating the budget. He cannot do that. But we cannot stop him from spending the money and allocating each line item the way he sees fit,” Russo exclaimed.
“So when we have the discussions of ‘we shouldn’t be funding x.’ That means nothing! Right? It means nothing if we’re talking about an internal line within a line item. So, to allocate a salary? We don’t have that say.”
Council President Jen Giattino agreed, but noted that the council has a say in allocating the salary lines.
After only about 15 minutes of discussion, the new amendment failed by a vote of 7-2, with Doyle and Jabbour voting yes.
The DCA is reviewing the budget before the council can vote on a second reading and city officials said they are yet to receive any feedback from the state agency on their budget.
Additionally, a spokeswoman for the DCA did not return multiple inquiries seeking comment.
The version approved at the previous meeting had been touted by the council majority for bringing the municipal tax increase down to 1.3 percent, as opposed to the initially proposed 2.8 percent.
The vote came hours before Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced he would be contesting five of the six ward council seats up for grabs in November, currently opting not to run anyone against Russo.