Hoboken council expected to vote on prelim $131.9M budget with 5.6% tax increase Wednesday


The Hoboken City Council is expected to vote on a preliminary $131,971,734 budget that comes with a 5.6 percent tax increase at Wednesday’s meeting.

The Hoboken City Council at their April 6th, 2022 meeting.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Hoboken has grown almost 20 percent over the past decade to 60,419 residents, and our services must grow simultaneously to support those residents, visitors, and business owners,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla said in a statement.

“We are putting forward a responsible, balanced budget that provides the services our community deserves through investments in our frontline workers, our first responders, and our infrastructure. I am proud that our budget reflects the appreciation of our essential staff that stewarded our community through the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the most difficult times in a generation.”

He added that he looks forward to collaborating with the council on adopting a municipal spending plan in the coming weeks.

The 80-page draft budget lists $128,671,734 for general appropriations, including  $68,180,705.47 to be raised by taxation for municipal purposes, and $9 million in anticipated surplus.

According to Bhalla’s office, the proposed budget provides for “crucial personnel investments” with approximately $8 million in salary and wage increases through union contracts already adopted by the council.

Furthermore, as the city begins to transition from a pandemic to an endemic, “critical investments” in quality-of-life initiatives have also been included in this budget.

Those include the creation of the Division of Housing, led by former Councilwoman-at-Large Vanessa Falco, to help residents maintain affordability in Hoboken with a budget of about $757,085, along with the reestablishment of the Office of Constituent Services.

Their goal is to assist residents with any issues they may have across the city with an allocation of $82,000, along with relaunching the Department of Public Safety.

Former Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante was named the city’s new public safety director at the April 6th council meeting, along with a $29,000 pay increase for Acting Police Chief Steven Aguiar.

The public safety department, which includes the police and fire departments, along with the office of emergency management, currently has a robust $43,335,038 in the current draft budget.

As for the municipal tax increase, that equates to approximately an extra $12 a month for a homeowner with a property valued at $525,000, the mayor’s office said.

The increase remains below the rate of inflation and below the increase of the Consumer Price Index, while Hoboken will continue to have the second lowest municipal tax levy in Hudson County, officials said.

Furthermore, as a way to offset the rising costs due to inflation and non-discretionary spending, the administration worked closely with the city’s Self-Insurance Fund Commission to reduce the cost of health insurance by over $3 million.

1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco chided the administration when addressing the budget in a tweet thread this morning.

“#Hoboken Politics 101. Step 1: hire friends, inflate contracts look the other way when inefficiencies are present and right before your election, pass an unsustainable tax decrease,” he wrote.

“Step 2: once re-elected, introduce an inflated budget, despite nearly 30million in federal funding due to Covid. Step 3 (forthcoming): have an ally on City Council cut spending + call it a win-win, even though residents are still getting nailed with an unnecessary tax increase.”

Last year’s budget was $124,878,217.96 and came with a 2.8 percent tax decrease, thanks to federal relief provided to municipalities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Resident Paul Presinzano, a former council-at-large candidate who recently called for the city to start introducing their annual spending plan in January, said the union contracts shouldn’t all be settled at once and that salaries shouldn’t be doled out as political favors.

“At first glance, the majority of this is coming from salary increases. Some of this is due to the fact that the union contracts were just settled. We should be spreading those out over the life of the contract,” he said over the phone today.

“Ultimately, I see a very large portion of the budget increasing due to new positions created by the mayor and raises for those closest to him.”

Back in December, the city council approved salary range increases for electeds, municipal directors, and a handful of employees.

Council President Mike Russo, who has routinely voted down budgets with tax increases in the past, did not immediately return a call or text message seeking comment on Monday.

The Hoboken City Council convenes at City Hall, 94 Washington St., Wednesday at 7 p.m.


CORRECTION: This story originally included an outdated number for total budget appropriations.

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  1. Don’t worry. All will be good once some more high rises go up and the pot revenue starts flowing. I wonder how much of our money Russo’s vote cost Ravi?

    • Mayor Ravi Bhalla has had his crew trying to hide the turning of the old police station into a redevelopment zone. He already has it on tomorrow’s City Council agenda under an abtuse cover name. If approved that will shut out the public and the residents of the First Ward from any say as to what is built just Bhalla and the developer he alone choses. He may have already chosen.
      The developer will be handed giant increases in height and density behind closed doors. There needs to be a lot of sunlight on what will be a multi-million dollar transaction that will change the look and feel of Hoboken.

      • Supposedly it’s been promised to Hany Amed to buy down a few floors on the Western Edge so it won’t block the Dorian’s view. Bhalla always solves his development problems with more development. Maybe they’ll put a dispensary in too. Pot and overdevelopment in one package. Win/Win.

    • After decades of mismanagement, budget deficits and having to sell of assets to fill them to the point the State of NJ had to come in take over the fiscal management of Hoboken, removing the many dishonest entities that had become embedded in the City government at all levels, Mayor Zimmer was able to turn things around to the point Hoboken went from bankruptcy to AA+ bond rating. Once on a solid financial footing Hoboken could then afford to fix long neglected infrastructure, add public amenities like improving Washington Street, rehabilitating and adding new open space. So big a thank you are in order to Mayor Zimmer and all those who made it happen. Hoboken is a far better place today.

      • There’s no use arguing with the perennial anti Zimmer/Bhalla crybabies, BHT. They’re trolls who are stuck in the past, ignore inconvenient truths, and will never listen to reason.

      • Facts are Zimmer had a 46% tax increase by the state to balance her budget and pay off Roberts/Cammrano overspending the budget. Opponents of Roberts supported by Zimmer objected to Roberts 2003, 04 and 05 budgets and emergency appropriations. In 2005 Roberts allowed the city to shut down. The state came in in 2008-09 and helped by a 56% retroactive increase and keeping in high for the next 4 quarters.

        Dawn never lowered taxes to the levels she promised when she ran and came in 2nd. She didn’t do it once Cammarano went to jail either.

        She fired Cops, Hispanic Directors and we are paying for all of that now…

  2. Based on this story, it sounds like last year’s tax cut wasn’t funded with sustainable current revenue. It was funded with a “one shot” out of surplus created from federal Covid relief funds. That means last year’s current revenue (including taxes) actually fell almost 3% short of what was needed to fund last year’s operations. So a 3% tax increase is needed just to enable the city to cover spending at LAST YEAR’S levels.

    Given the new payroll obligations from the settled contracts agreed to by both the Mayor and Council, regular step raises, the raises and new hires approved by the Council as well as the Mayor, including raises given to themselves, the additional 3% tax increase to cover spending increases year over year seems pretty modest. If anything it seems too modest.

    The City has embarked on or has proposed some pretty ambitious projects that will require lots of additional revenue to fund going forward. This means both new ratables and/or PILOTs (ie lots of new large scale development) and substantial tax increases going forward. The last 12 years have been characterized by limited development and stable taxes and that is likely not sustainable going forward given the spending the City has already committed to, and is proposing going forward.

    That’s something that ought to be honestly discussed with the Hoboken public as decisions are made that will have significant future impact on the City and it’s taxpayers. There should be complete candor about how spending committed to now will affect both taxes and development decisions going forward. That doesn’t mean the projects shouldn’t go forward. But all decisions should be made with the public’s fully aware of the financial cost and how it will be paid. The school bond referendum made it pretty clear the public wants to have that conversation and have it’s views heard before projects are committed to.

    In today’s inflationary environment taxes are likely to be going up pretty substantially every year just to keep things going. Substantial increases on top of that should not be a “surprise” left to some future Administration and Council to impose when the stuff hits the fan after this Administration and Council has moved on.

    But that said, this year’s budget seems in line with the stable trend line of the past 12 years. Using last year’s one shot funded tax cut (demanded by the Mayor’s opponents) to create an excuse for attacking the Mayor’s proposed budget this year is just political nonsense straight out of the Beth Mason play book from when she was demanding that the surplus be “returned” to the taxpayer.

    • This is one of the most informative, honest and clearheaded comment I’ve read here in ages, thank you. Makes you realize how little of the great potential for HCV comments is actually realized, instead being dominated by a few conspiracy theorists and partisan hacks.

      Not everything is black and white, not everything the city does is either good or bad.

      • Thank you. iMHO it’s not just that everything is “all good” or “all bad.”. It’s that everything is partisan spin with no honest reasoned discussion from either “side ”

        To me, the most interesting budget item is the $3 million drop in projected health insurance costs. Is that a real reduction in actual projected costs for articulable sustainable reasons? .Or is due to unsustainable reasons like Covid deferred health care costs? Or just a lower “tighter” estimate for budget purposes without any real reduction. In actual costs to avoid an even higher tax increase?

        Most importantly, is it sustainable? Because if it’s not and the estimate in next year’s budget goes back up the $3 million, then there’s another 5% tax increase already baked in for next year plus any additional increase due to other cost increases like new hires and scheduled salary increases.

        • I agree with most of what LL says, however she forgets to mention the city can’t just keep thinking parks are free and everyone can afford the PILOT’s at 770, 800 Jackson and 333 River and hope the park tax is enough to cover things.
          Sadly, now, we all hated Beth Mason when she said ” develop or Die”
          Well given her alliance with Russo it scared all of us. But there was some truth to it. Given all that Zimmer advanced in revenue was her buddy Bijou’s 770 Jackson that got him 13 story towers that pissed off our neighbors, a park that’s already crumbling and has no water sprinklers for the grass so it dies… and basically a giant plaza that really only serves a bunch of profit making day care centers.

          Makes us want to follow Zimmer’s lead and sell our condo and move to the woods before we have to dicount it like she did….

          • If I remember reading correctly the only reason there was a PILOT on 770 Jackson was the last minute addition of a greater percentage of units of so called affordable housing demanded by Councilman Russo.

            “—— or Die” girl you seem to forget that the rest of the specs on the project where the developer turned over the acres of property on which they gym, a park over flood prevention and that plaza over parking between the Monroe Center and 770. Yes children, Hoboken children, use that plaza on weekdays.

  3. Thank you for your odd, rambling comment. It provides a powerful contrast, thereby reinforcing the point about partisan hacks working to drown out objective dialogue about the issues of the day. The references to Mayor Zimmer’s apartment sale and the woods were an excellent closing touch if your goal was to illustrate the problem “Well Said’ and I were discussing.

    Hobokenites deserve better. Even from anonymous commenters on HCV like you and me, but especially from Hoboken’s public officials. Sadly it seems like all we hear
    most of the time is spin and attack. Thoughtful discussion without vitriol based on honestly presented fully disclosed information is hard to come by.

    This pattern has been in place for so long that it may seem normal to some folks. But it’s not. Other cities are not like that and It’s toxic and damaging to Hoboken.