Hoboken City Council approves $117.6M budget with $642k in cuts, 1.7% tax increase

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The Hoboken City Council narrowly approved a roughly $117.6 million budget that had cut about $642,000, compared to the initial spending plan introduced by the administration, that comes with a 1.7 percent tax rate increase at last night’s meeting.

“The prior amendment that was approved for basically $836,000, at the time, in cuts. Since that time, we had a few changes that we had to make, some corrective, some additional changes the administration had put in since the budget was still open,” began 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, the chair of the council’s finance committee.

“But then there were also some that were discretionary changes based on feedback that we heard from many of you, feedback we had heard from other council members, based on further review of some of the numbers, to put some of the money back.”

Fisher continued that the latest amendment, the fourth of its kind for this budget season, that some funding had been restored to the mayor’s office, zoning, revenue & finance and corporation counsel.

She also mentioned that some additional funding had been restored for snow plowing and the new water utility deal with Suez.

About a month ago, the governing body approved a preliminary $117 million budget that would have cut $115,000 from the mayor’s office and approximately $836,000 overall from the budget introduced by the administration.

Two weeks later, Council members James Doyle and Emily Jabbour introduced a resolution that would’ve cut the initial budget by just $240,000 as the spending plan was being reviewed by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, but that measure was voted down.

Prior to last night’s vote, Jabbour questioned if all of the concerns brought to the DCA had been addressed, particularly layoffs caused by certain departments being underfunded, prompting Council President Jen Giattino to weigh in.

“We are not cutting any money from any classified salary and wage line items,” she exclaimed before Business Administrator Stephen Marks responded with a less definitive answer.

“So Director Walter of the [DCA’s] Division of Local Government Services down at the state had expressed concern that the council amendment was underfunding the budget. I will have to do a reassessment of salary and wages to determine if a layoff plan is in face necessary,” he stated.

Doyle then pressed Marks to provide clarity on whether or not this budget would come with any layoffs.

“There are reductions in offices and line items structurally where there are current or existing employees, where if those offices were to be funded at the same rate for the rest of the year, it would lead to an underfunding of the budget.”

Giattino responded immediately, stating that salary and wage line of classified workers have not been changed and therefore it would be the administration’s choice if they decided to move forward with layoffs.

Marks and Jabbour appeared to have more to say, but Giattino cut them both off before the vote on the budget amendment, then the budget as a whole.

Both measures were approved by an identical 5-4 vote, with Doyle, Jabbour, 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo and Councilwoman-at-Large Vanessa Falco voting no.

The two resolutions were decided by an up and down vote with no one on the dais explaining why they voted for or against the measures.

Russo and Falco had previously supported the May 6th budget amendment approved by the council.

The budget calls for just over $85,000 in cuts from the mayor’s office, which consists of a communications director, a deputy chief of staff and a chief of staff.

In a lengthy statement, Mayor Ravi Bhalla commended the council for allocating funding for the HOP bus, the Office of Constituent Affairs, public safety, snow removal, sanitation, recycling, a water main replacement and the Northwest Resiliency Park.

However, he also made it quite apparent that he did not agree with the cuts approved, calling them “fiscally irresponsible and politically vindictive,” claiming that the spending plan would impact the legal and police departments, as well as forcing the ouster of his deputy chief of staff – Jason Freeman.

“The cuts to the legal department could substantially jeopardize our ability to continue fighting the Monarch waterfront development, pursue additional affordable housing initiatives, and other critical services offered by the city that require legal representation,” Bhalla stated.

“Second, their amendments target my office and eliminates a member of my staff, Jason Freeman, who goes above and beyond to respond during emergencies, and other important duties. Already, the Office of the Mayor is one of the most understaffed in the region, as documented by our legal department.”

He added that the cuts would eliminate $100,000 from the police department (Fisher has previously said most of that money would’ve been spent on motorcycles) and will likely cause other necessary layoffs.

In response, Fisher and Giattino said in a joint statement that they were proud of the approved budget since it’s “fiscally responsible, it supports essential city services and public safety” and arrived through a thoughtful, collaborative process.”

They also disputed Bhalla’s assertion that critical cases being handled by the legal department could be put in jeopardy, stating that the funding is in place for “crucial issues” such as the city’s tenant advocate and the Monarch project appeal.

Furthermore, 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, who voted on the budget over the phone last night, said it was long overdue that the “bloated mayor’s office” faced cuts due to consistently participating in “highly questionable political hit jobs.”

He also commended Giattino and Fisher’s leadership, calling them “two dedicated community leaders.”

Then, after those statements were released, Doyle and Jabbour fired back, claiming that the budget aimed to “surgically cut funds” so that employees like Freeman would be let go and also criticized Giattino for calling a budget vote before a full dialogue could take place.

 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Council President Giattino abruptly cut off any further discussion because she was afraid that if the public knew the real facts they would see through her and Councilwoman Fisher vindictive political charade.

    Giattino was not even able to win her own Ward when she ran for Mayor although many believe her candidacy was just an attempt at being a spoiler for Councilman Defusco.

    • Actually, Council Prez cut off Marks because he was about to start lying about city workers having to be let go. The rank and file city workers are in no danger of being laid off because of this budget. The only hatchet coming down is on Ravi’s patronage 6-figure salaried pal, Jason Freeman who shouldn’t have been sucking off the city teet for the last 1 1/2 years in the first place. Maybe if the mayor wasn’t working two jobs he could do the necessary work of being a mayor he woudn’t have needed to bloat the staff in his office.

      I suppose it’s possible that Ravi might lay other city workers off just so he can blame it on Tiffanie, Jen and Michael D.

      Could anyone imagine we’d be stuck with a mayor that would lay people off just to get back at his political rivals? Talk about vicious….

          • Speaking of vile pets, it is good to see the voters dumped Jen and Tiff’s girl friend and campaign worker Shrill, you know the one they changed the rules just to appoint her not too long ago, from the Democratic Committee by a margin of over six to one. This signal what voters will do to Jen and Tif in November ?

      • Tiffany, Jen, Mikey D and Peter are political goners. Ruben has bigger problems. After they’re all out, the mayors office will get back its funding.

        • Yeah, and the runoff referendum will fail because Ravi kept telling people to vote no. How’d that go again? Or are you still counting votes in the sewer infested cave of lies and filth?

          Yes, Hoboken will flock to vote for Ravi Bhalla’s ticket, higher taxes, broken promises and more filthy fliers issued from the mayor’s office and his operatives.

          • Lotta hand-wringing (or should I say hoof-wringing) over in the bigot-barnyard over LIME scooters. Isn’t that biting the LIME that feeds you?

            When Jennifer, Tiffany, Mikey D and Peter lose- and they WILL- please remember that life goes on… do not give up! You’ll still have Ruben! Unless… πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

      • Thank goodness we have some of the good government people left to hold up Dawn Zimmer’s legacy on financial restraint. Imagine Ravi Bhalla running amok for more years and the inevitable double-digit taxes he’d impose.

    • Council President called for a vote. Once a vote is called debate is over. It’s understandable there was more grandstanding of imaginary layoffs Emily Jabbour and Stephen Marks wanted. Time for Ravi Bhalla to do the right thing and

        • You people in the mayor’s office and on Ravi Bhalla’s political operative payroll need to get a life and stop lying so much about good people who have proven their honor and integrity serving Hoboken.

  2. So, when will Jason get his pink slip? Good riddance, I say.

    I see that the mayor is still attacking affordable housing when he doesn’t get his way. Yup, we got a mayor that attacks the poor, the least among us. Now THAT’S the thing that is really vindictive. Looks like he threatened Vanessa with that and she caved. To bad she doesn’t understand that if the mayor had the budget to hire a dozen friends he still wouldn’t do anything to address the affordable housing needs that she wants to see happen. Thought she was smarter than that.

    Mayor is also trying to get his ain’t done nuthin’ for the town slate mates elected by tossing in the Monarch for good measure. Have you ever seen someone more calculating. Problem is, Tiffanie has been steadfast in her support for stopping the Monarch. Bet it pisses the mayor off that he can’t attack Tiffanie over that. Oh wait! This mayor is big on Trumpian level lying. Bet he’ll start releasing secret campaign lit saying that Tiffanie doesn’t support stopping the Monarch development. Watch for it. It won’t be long.

    • Why are they announcing Jason as the person who should leave the fattened and bloated office of mayor? He’s not the worst/vindictive mayoral aide, not even close. John Allen should have been fired for his disgusting attacks at council meetings with his proxies. Vijay should have followed soon after with all his uncouth wretched ugliness. Do the right thing, not the vile thing Ravi!

      • Tired of the same-old lemonade? Try limeade instead! In Southeast Asia, limeade (also known as “lime water”) is a popular drink due to the fact that fresh limes are so readily available and the weather is so hot. Limeade is very refreshing and fragrant, and its light green color also makes it a beautiful drink to serve. This recipe uses 5 large limes to 7 1/2 cups water, which makes for quite a flavorful limeade. Feel free to add more water if you find it too strong (adults tend to like it more “limey” than kids).

        Tip: If anyone claims bottled lime juice is just as good as fresh, or that it makes a good substitutionβ€”don’t listen! Bottled lime juice is bitter and has an aftertaste. Also, it doesn’t have the natural enzymes or flavor of fresh limes, not to mention the lovely scent or the health benefits.

        Ingredients
        Steps
        Comments
        Ingredients
        1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 5 medium to large limes)
        7 to 8 cups water
        1 cup white sugar (to taste)
        Optional garnish: fresh fruit (such as lime wedges or honeydew slices)
        Steps to Make It
        Squeeze the limes to make 1 cup of lime juice, either by hand (slicing the limes into wedges and squeezing) or by using a citrus juicer/press. Remove any small seeds you find.

        Pour the lime juice into a large jug, and add 7 cups water.

        Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

        Taste-test the lime water, adding more sugar if you prefer it sweeter, or more water if you find the taste too tart or sharp. Set jug in the refrigerator to chill 2 hours, or until cold.

        Serve as is, or garnish with lime wedges or other fresh fruit (the subtle sweetness of honeydew melon is a nice contrast). Add a few ice cubes if desired.

        • I hope you are not making fun of LimeMaids. It’s all part of a totally fulfilling life. Revel in the misery of others by day, LimeMaid by night. I bet you’re just jealous. The early Maid gets the scooter!

      • That’s exactly Jason’s tragedy (although he’s no angel). Ravi would never keep the one that has the most decency in the bunch. Ravi needs people that will crawl around in the muck like nobody’s business in his quest to smear anyone that doesn’t kiss the ring and bow to him entirely.

        Yes, it’s Ravi the Vicious in City Hall.

        Maybe Jason had the temerity to ask a question once or twice. Maybe he winced at something particularly malicious or spiteful that came out of Ravi’s mouth about his imagined opponents and Ravi saw it.

        Maybe once, just once, Jason answered an email that Peter, Jen or Tiffanie sent asking a question when Ravi had commanded that he ignore them all entirely.

        If that’s the case, Jason has learned what so many others have known for a while.

        • Thank you Boo for confirming with that insider tid-bit of info that that whole ugly little charade was just Peter, Jen and Tifannie were not looking out for the best interests of the people of Hoboken but being vindictive.

          It stinks when elected public officials use their power to lash out against individuals who they felt have somehow slighted them.

        • Now, how would “Boo Boo” know that Jason has answered “maybe just once” an email from “Peter, Jen and Tiffanie” unless you ARE “Peter, Jen or Tiffanie.” By process of elimination, you are Tiffanie. Moreover, “wincing” at something (remember Tiff’s “audible winces” of mystery lawyers when they heard tales of terror about Gary Holtz an) is Tiffanie. So thank you for the window into your thought process. As an elected official, you should not be playing internet games, trying to influence public opinion wearing a disguise. It is dishonest, immature and disrespectful. Sign your name next time “Boo Boo. “

          • Do these people really think that anyone that questions or dislikes the mayor and comments about it is Tiffanie?

            Answer is – no, they don’t. They’re just playing more political games.

    • glad the city has one less salaried employee but worried that there will be more competition for juicing the limes. hope mommie has a plan for this.

      • I’m 12 years old and after school my big brother let’s me juice lime scooters with him. He gives me a dollar too! juicing lime scooters is extra money on top of Mom and Dads allowance.Mom says that I can juice scooters when I am a teenager like my brother. I can’t wait to grow up! There is nothing wrong with it. Juicing lime scooters helps kids to make money. My neighbor juices scooters too but he’s old……17 years! Hell be looking for a grown up job soon. Juicing scooters is for kids!

        • Then there’s the stout paid political operative Nancy who thinks eating all the ACME donuts is her job and helps her political boss Ravi. (Don’t tell her he’s not paying for her to eat more donuts.)

          • Then there’s that flabby, balding, rotting-gum, bad-breathed, grey-haired, unwashed-clothes-wearing, smelly barnyard bigot juicing LIMES in the produce section of ACME πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

            “Mommy, can I juice LIME scooters like the big boys in high school?” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

          • Oh no, Nancy is angry and will assault the ACME donut section next. Who is she going to assault next?

            Better a donut and wearing oversized curtains than minorities.

          • Sorry, but “Nancy” isn’t angry at you. A limp LIME like you has no power over her! True story. Your once robust LIME is merely a dried up, juiceless shell. “Nancy” does worry tho since you’re rolling in the sack with Ruben and the whole Dark Side brigade, you may accidentally squeeze somebody’s LIME. Or even a pair! I’ll tell the folks at ACME to stock plenty of LIMES tho for you they’ll double the price. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜œ

  3. Got an email from the mayor that was very weird. Why should I care about this one person? When companies slip into the red they lay people off. Why should a city be any different? Taxes are going up, so we’re in the red. If only one person is getting laid off, it’s sad for that person, but last hired, first fired. Happens all the time. Doesn’t look like we’re having layoffS, we’re having A layoff. I put that in the win column.

    • Yeah, what will all these overpaid operatives do when Ravi is away at his Republican law firm job?
      You mean they’ll have to do work instead of scheming and lying to the public for a change?

  4. Jason Freeman has met and is liked by HUNDREDS of Hoboken residents in all 6 wards who appreciate how he’s helped them and their neighbors at city EMERGENCIES. Jason has been on the scene of EVERY WATER MAIN BREAK during the Bhalla admin. Every one. And every fire. Hoboken residents know and like Jason, think he’s doing great and necessary work, and they dont read your dead blog or these comment threads. Word is spreading how this hardworking young married man was thrown out of a job by a gang of vicious partisan harpies and losers. Oh yeah, Jason has many, MANY more friends in Hoboken than your “BooBoo” Fisher and her cabal members put together. Firing Jason was politically tone deaf. “BooBoo” Fisher and the bad-government MEAN cabal will pay a steep political price. Steep. Word is spreading among REAL people outside your insular circle of bitter, giggling two-faced morons. Your inane drivel here and on your dead bigot-blog won’t save one vote “BooBoo” Fisher and the Mean bad-government cabal will lose for this. Big political miscalculation.

    Suck on that LIME, JUICE BOY. 😜

    • You know it was either the mayor who fired Jason or Jason quit on his own, right? The council cant fire him.
      Jason and Rachel are moving – house was listed for sale on 5/15. So maybe he quit on his own. Besides if Jason is so beloved by all then why did he quit or the mayor fire him? Are VJ and John more beloved than him?

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