The Hoboken City Council Finance Subcommittee is taking aim at 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher and 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos for proposed budget cuts that received some discussion at last week’s meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“We want to state plainly that we believe your suggested budget amendments that call for the elimination of several City Hall staff members to be clearly politically motivated,” Finance Subcommittee Chair Emily Jabbour, 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, and Councilman-at-Large Joe Quintero said in an email to Fisher and Ramos yesterday.
“We are, however, supportive of some of the proposed additions to the budget that you have recommended including the addition of a social worker, funding for an Arts Master Plan, and funding for additional senior citizen programming.”
The lengthy email goes on to say the subcommittee isn’t in favor of potentially eliminating Public Safety Director Kenneth Ferrante, the Office of Constituent Affairs, Housing Division Chief Vanessa Falco, Rec Director Jessica Lezcano, Deputy Parking Director Diana Aviles, as well as unspecified staffers in the Department of Environmental Services and the Office of Corporation Counsel.
“The budget process is not an opportunity to settle scores. It is the time where we come together and find ways to address the needs of Hoboken residents in a fiscally responsible manner,” the trio added.
“We hope you will take these considerations seriously and reach out to us with more thoughtful proposals that support our community.”
The subcommittee also claimed that Fisher and Ramos did not discuss the proposed budget amendments with any city directors, noting that they have identified $300,000 in cuts without eliminating any staff.
All nine council members were asked by the subcommittee to identify ways to aid taxpayers since the initial $131,971,734 budget came with a 5.6 percent tax increase.
Fisher and Ramos were put on the hot seat at last week’s council meeting as they were asked to defend their positions, with Council President Mike Russo postponing the discussion until June 15th once it devolved into a drawn out argument among colleagues.
At the time, Ramos said he has been advocating to have $300,000 toward rehabilitating the multi-service center and $65,000 to aid the city’s homeless population. Meanwhile, Fisher denounced the process as “political theatre.”
In an email, Fisher said yesterday that she did not suggest eliminating the Office of Constituent Services or any member of the Department of Environmental Services, clarifying that she felt they should only hire four employees this year instead of eight.
The proposal from the subcommittee allocates $300,000 towards a multi-service center concept plan, using grant money ($45,000) for additional the senior center programming, and allocating $70,000 for a social services worker under human services.
Those first and last items, along with another $15,000 for additional senior services, would require hearings prior to approval.
While the first reading of the budget was approved unanimously in April (9-0), the second and final reading has not made it to an agenda yet.
The Hoboken City Council will convene Wednesday at City Hall, 94 Washington St., at 7 p.m.