The Hoboken City Council will consider allowing residents’ third quarter tax bill to show a five percent tax increase, according to council documents made public today.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“On the May 20, 2020 Hoboken City Council meeting, there is an agenda item entitled
‘Resolution Authorizing Estimated Tax Billing Per NJSA 54:4-66.3.’ Estimated tax billing for the third quarter of this year has been discussed and agreed to over several meetings with the Finance Subcommittee,” Director of Operations/Acting Business Administrator Jason Freeman wrote in a memo to the city council today.
He also indicated that the Local Finance Board from the Division of Local Government Services (DLGS), part of the state Department of Community Affairs, sent a notice asking to send tax bills for the third quarter, even if municipal budgets haven’t been adopted due to financial woes caused or amplified by COVID-19.
“The Administration recommends that the City Council approve an increased estimated third quarter tax bill based on a 5% increase in the total levy to mitigate the possibility of an outsized bill for taxpayers in November 2020,” Freeman continued.
“By passing this resolution, the City Council allows for flexibility and less pressure to be put on the taxpayer come November 2020.”
He added that the goal is to have a budget based on “sound financial principles” and the most up to date information possible.
According to a copy of the resolution, the 2020 estimated tax levy is $196.6 million.
In an email blast where she chided the administration for not announcing the agenda item publicly, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher provided her break down of the resolution.
” … The city, because of the significant shortfall, is recommending that we use the highest available rate increase of 5%,” she wrote.
“The rationale is that if the anticipated rate increase is going to be 5% or greater, if the highest rate isnâ€™t selected now, then the financial impact will be even greater in the November, February, and May billings.”
Hoboken’s financial short comings have been discussed since January, where then-Business Administrator Stephen Marks said the budget hole could be around $ 7 million.
More recently, both Fisher and 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco have estimated the figure to be around $20 million, though City Hall has disclosed a number between $10 to $13 million.
DeFusco said that he felt the resolution was “the epitome of a lack of transparency,” reiterating that the council is yet to see a budget.
“Attempting to sneak in a 5% tax increase in the middle of a pandemic is the epitome of a lack of transparency in our local government,” he stated.
“Presenting this plan to the Council hours before a vote and before weâ€™ve even seen a budget proposal is nothing short of irresponsible. If the Council President and Finance Committee co-chairs believe in transparency and honest budgeting, I hope they will accept the request Iâ€™ve made to remove this from the agenda until we have been presented with a budget.”
As part of a cost savings initiative, 26 municipal employees were issued layoff notices last month, drawing the ire of both local unions.
City spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri said 11 employees were ultimately laid off, while 15 retired with benefits – including terminal leave.
Union reps said at the May 6th council meeting that these retirements were “forced.”
In response, city council members have introduced measures to eliminate the Office of Constituent Affairs and the city engineer, which Mayor Ravi Bhalla has opposed.
Another ordinance up for second reading at tonightâ€™s meeting would temporarily reduce the salaries and compensation of all department heads, the city council, and the mayor by 10 percent.
There is yet another measure that asks the council to temporarily downgrade their health benefits.
The Hoboken City Council will convene via a Zoom call at 7 p.m., which can be viewed live on their Facebook page.
Honestly a 5% increase is much lower than I anticipated considering the years of flat tax rate increases and the financial problem all cities are facing.
They are just throwin’ darts. Deficits? Could this much, could be that much. Layoffs? Eh, here’s some. Tax increase? Here’s a random #, for a random amount of time. Oh, we can throw some drops in the bucket like salary reductions? Sure!
No one knows what they are doing – totally inept.
Nobody knows what the total cost of the pandemic will be this year when thE smoke clears, so claiming uncertainty is a sign of incompetence, as you have, is either partisan nonsense or stupidity.
That said, the steps publicly announced so far are insufficient to cover the pre-pandemic budget issues, so itâ€™s pretty obvious there are more hard choices coming down the pike soon.
The Mayor and the Council will have to figure out how to put politics aside and work collaboratively in the best interests of their constituents and pass a budget they will share responsibility for, or their constituents will get royally screwed.
So far, the Councilâ€™s actions and rhetoric does do not bode well. Sometimes necessity causes children to grow up quickly. Hoboken needs grown up leadership now more than ever so letâ€™s hope all of our elected officials start behaving like the responsible adult leaders our City needs and deserves.
This is the base of the tax increases, in the end, it will be much higher.
Russo dressed up again for his City Council appearance. This time as Ed Norton from the Honeymooners.
Dawn knew ONE THING she was doing right, quitting and anointing Ravi so he could promise not to point the blame at her for what MUST be her 8 years of management too, What happened to the “sound footing for the future and AA bond rating she and he co-mayor Stan boasted about?
One of the few positive things that has happened because of the Corona Virus is the bloated municipal payroll is starting to be reduced. The public payroll has been a long time job patronage sacred cow for old Hoboken politicos. Moving forward Hoboken can now be more efficient and hire skilled competent staff and shed the decades accumulated chaff.
See my post above about the need for responsible adult leadership. Your juvenile posts are a reminder that there’s nothing new under the sun; selfish immature opportunists posing as reformers have plagued Hoboken before.
Fortunately for Hoboken, those faux reformers were ultimately replaced by a team of smart, serious people genuinely interested in good government, leading to years of gimmick free balanced budgets and a $27 million surplus on 12/31/2008 and the AA+ bond rating you refer to.
That surplus has been badly depleted since, largely due to an unfortunate delay in addressing health care costs that began skyrocketing for unclear reasons in 2018, but in part also due to the Council’s politically motivated decision to reduce rather than raise the badly needed tax increase last year. But the $16 million remaining will certainly cushion some of the fiscal pain and help the City manage its way through the current crisis, provided the Mayor and Council put politics aside, and behave like the responsible adult leadership that managed the City effectively through its last fiscal crisis.
This time Hoboken doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for these elected officials to be swept away so hopefully the current crew will recognize the urgency of the moment and step up.
That’s 12/31/2017 not 12/31/2008 – my bad. As any student of Hoboken history knows, the fiscal picture on 12/31/2008 was quite different from 12/31/2017 with Hoboken under State fiscal supervision due to a $12 million budget underfunding resulting from the annual fiscal shennanigans employed during the Roberts mayoralty and the Soares/Ramos council years.
Stan Grossbard should check his facts he loves attacking the MINORITY members but why not Carol MARSH ?
Oh let’s ask Carmelo…. he has 500,000 answers
Wasn’t it Bhalla who represented Soares when Roberts and the DCA sued Marsh, Soares, Russo and Castellano when they refused to approve Roberts spending in 2005?
Zimmer know that year very well, she came to see Carol and her team and they welcomed her to the community.
Stan and Dawn should really move on, cut their losses and pitch a tent in the woods where they fled during COVID19… They love knocking Roberts, but sure dont mind having dinner with him…
Didn’t Tony Soares say at the City Council he sold his condo and is moving on ?
Did Dawn leave Ravi a mess Or did Ravi create this himself?
Oh wait LindSTAN said itâ€™s Ramos Roberts and Soares daily from 2002….
Ok got it … itâ€™s not Stanâ€™s shadowship or his wifeâ€™s puppetry