The Hoboken City Council okayed a preliminary $135,951,106 budget with a seven percent tax hike, as well as the first reading of amendments to a controversial rent control measure, at last night’s meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Business Administrator Jason Freeman provided an overview during a brief presentation of the municipal spending plan, for example noting that salaries, insurance, pension, and debt service costs are up $9,224,745 from last year.
He also said that Hoboken has the lowest municipal tax rate in the county based on 2022 figures, that the municipal tax average residential assessment compound annual growth rate up just 1.13 percent, and that this budget has about $3.5 million in non-recurring revenues.
“About 32 percent of all city appropriations fall under police and fire salary and wages, 26.2 percent of the budget is made up of group health, pension, and fringe benefits, 10.4 percent is made up of general operating expenses across the board, 13.5 percent is for salary and wages that are not public safety,” the BA explained.
He continued that 10.8 percent is for debt service, 4.5 percent is for trash collection and hauling, and 2.5 percent is reserved for uncollected taxes, as well as mentioning that out of salaries and wages for each department, public safety makes up 74 percent.
The first reading of the ordinance passed 6-3, with 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino voting no.
The day prior, the local board of education voted to send a preliminary $74,875,799 budget with an 8.47 percent tax hike to be reviewed by the office of Hudson County Executive Superintendent Melissa Pearce, as HCV first reported.
As for the rent control proposal, an ordinance was approved last month by a close 5-4 vote that included a variety of changes such as changing the initial base rent yet to October 1st, 1985 and reducing annual rent increases from 7.5 percent to 5 percent.
Several landlords and tenants spoke out against the measure then and urged the council to consider amendments such as rent permitted to be charged under the rent control ordinance, leaving rent control calculations up to the rent control office (with tenants able to receive the calculations upon request), and that a “base rent” cannot be increased in the event that it is greater than “legal rent” – among other things.
Andrew Simoncini, speaking on behalf of the Mile Square Taxpayers Association in partnership with the Fair Share Housing Association, thanked the council for their consideration, specifically Fisher, Russo, Giattino, and 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos.
“Recognizing that there will be a public hearing on this matter, we will forego extended comment here, except to again express gratitude for the council members who brought the parties together and mediated the issues at hand very successfully,” he stated.
” … But we did not hear, not even one time outside of this chamber, a single inquiry or public comment from any of the other council members rationalizing their opposition to addressing the amending that were passed earlier this year. Speaking for MSTA, we want to have that debate on the merits and not be subject to political dynamics as this decision is made.”
Cheryl Fallick, a tenant advocate and former rent leveling board member, said that they should open up
“This is something that I did sit down with Ron Simoncini on, it’s not perfect, but you guys have a longstanding situation with rent control and we did our best we worked together … I posted every single amendment to the amendments of the Hoboken Fair Housing Facebook group, it’s an open group, not private,” she explained.
” … So I have already put it in writing if you don’t want to have a discussion with me,” Fallick added, noting that she is open to conversations with anyone who is interested.
The first reading of the amended ordinance, sponsored by Ramos and Giattino, passed 5-4, with 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, Fisher, Russo, Ramos, and Giattino voting yes and everyone else voting no.