Hoboken council to vote on amended $117M budget, $1M less than initial spending plan


The Hoboken City Council is scheduled to vote on an amended $117 million budget, $1 million dollars less than the preliminary budget they approved on March 27th that would have also come with a 2.8 percent tax increase.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Hoboken 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, the chair of the finance and revenue subcommittee, submitted an amendment to the proposed city budget that cuts spending by over $1 million, significantly reducing the burden on city taxpayers.

According to a joint statement released by Fisher and her colleagues Mike DeFusco, Jen Giattino and Peter Cunningham, these changes lower the city’s proposed tax increase from 2.8 percent to 1 percent without compromising funding for emergency services or investments in infrastructure.

“As elected representatives for the City of Hoboken, it is our responsibility to ensure taxpayer money is being used efficiently to make investments in the services and programs that best provide for the needs of our community,” the four council members said.

“The administration’s proposed budget calls for an increase in taxes by nearly 3%. This must be a belt tightening year for our government and it is irresponsible to ask taxpayers to open their wallets further than necessary.”

They continued that the proposed amendments would allocate an additional $100,000 to the fire department, the city clerk’s office and senior services.

“While we are asking some departments to do more with less, these are fair recommendations that protect the delivery of the most vital services to Hoboken residents,” they concluded.

City spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri commended Giattino, Fisher and Cunningham for working with Mayor Ravi Bhalla.

“Mayor Bhalla thanks Councilmembers Giattino, Fisher and Cunningham for their commitment to working with him on producing a responsible budget that continues to offer critical services to Hoboken residents. He looks forward to a final budget that for the second year in a row holds the line on taxes.”

Meanwhile, DeFusco added that it would be “irresponsible government” to okay a nearly three percent tax increase, particularly since funding to the mayor’s office has increased by 40 percent under Bhalla’s watch.

“During his first two years in office, Mayor Bhalla has increased his office’s spending by an alarming 40% to fund jobs for political supporters, politically convenient contracts and unnecessary lawsuits,” the councilman stated.

“Simply put this is irresponsible governing that only benefits politicians and not residents. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues on the City Council to propose amendments to the budget which will save the city over $1 million while simultaneously increasing funding for our short-staffed Fire Department.”

In response, Chaudhuri said that DeFusco “lost his credibility long ago” and that his constant animus towards the mayor speaks to “his lack of character.”

“Councilman DeFusco has a long history of doing politically connected favors for his donors and developers, paying political operatives to send out statements on his behalf, and simply not showing up to Planning Board and Council meetings,” he retorted.

“Residents aren’t fooled – Mike DeFusco lost his credibility long ago and his ability to distort the truth into political hits directed at the Mayor speaks to his lack of character.”

Furthermore, Caitlin Mota, a spokeswoman for DeFusco called it hypocritical for Chaudhuri, a former campaign manager for Bhalla, to use his taxpayer-funded position to attack the councilman’s character.

“This further shows the need for oversight in the mayor’s office and Councilman DeFusco will not be bullied by the mayor’s staff for holding the administration accountable for wasteful spending.”

The vote on the proposed amendment will happen during Wednesday’s council meeting at 7 p.m.

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  1. Commending Fisher, Giattino and Cunningham for “working with” Ravi Bhalla?
    How is Ravi Bhalla’s proposed 3% tax increase “holding the line?”

    Looks like the only people holding the line on taxes are four members of the City Council. Hopefully, that number grows on Wednesday night.

    • Shadowstan is annoyed that Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher and others on the City Council are actually following the budget roadmap former mayor Dawn Zimmer left to control spending and hold the line on taxes.

      Maybe he/she is just jealous.

  2. Why did Ms. Fisher’s press release fail to disclose what exactly her proposed cuts were? She tells us about her proposed spending increases (HFD and senior services) but her cuts are explained as “some departments will be asked to do more with less?” Huh????

    What exactly is being cut Councilwoman and on what basis were those particular line items chosen while the HFD got an increase? Nobody likes higher taxes, but the devil in budgets lies in the details and the fact that Fisher is hiding those details is certainly concerning.

    The lack of transparency is glaring, particularly from a Councilwoman who, to put it mildly, is not known for her brevity. Let’s hope this is a serious effort at responsible budgeting and not political grandstanding.

    • Dawn Zimmer is the model. Zimmer didn’t make a big deal about non-essential items. She just kept the budget flat like Fisher is seeking.

      Why didn’t Ravi Bhalla work with the City Council to do that earlier? Now you want to complain? Well, go ahead, complain.

      • I think you’re confused about how the budget process legally works – maybe you can get someone to explain it to you. Suffice it to say that the introduced budget is legally the Mayor’s work product, not a joint mayor/Council workproduct. The job of the council, under the law, is to weigh in only after introduction, not before, so the process is working the way it’s legally supposed to.

        The Council is supposed to make changes as it seems fit and the final adopted budget is the Council’s workproduct.

        My concern is not with the concept of the Council cutting fat from the budget – I’m all for that – and when the Council amends the budget in ways that make it better it is doing it’s job.

        My concern is with Fisher’s lack of transparency about what she is proposing cutting, which is for me a massive red flag raising questions about whether she is proposing cutting fat or playing political games. Given DeFusco’s companion statement, political game playing seems likely to be at least part of what is being done.

        For example cutting the mayor’s office budget would be a political game. So would cutting legal, since legal fees are generally not discretionary – cases need to be litigated properly and the City can’t choose not to defend when it is sued.

        The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and come Wednesday Fisher and DeFusco will have to share the details they have so far chosen to hide. I will reserve judgment until then but I am not optimistic.

        • I’m not confused. I just pointed out the lack of willingness factually based on how Ravi Bhalla proposed a budget with a 3% increase.

          If you want the details of the council amendment you can go look at all of it on the City of Hoboken website. It’s not being hidden. As a former shadow mayor, you certainly know all the details submitted which is why you are posturing and crying.

          The City Council is following a similar budget under Dawn Zimmer when she left. Keeping an eye on the taxpayers ain’t a political game; it’s mandatory in City Hall and the mayor’s office.

    • Why Councilwoman Fisher didn’t disclose where her purposed cuts would be is easy. She and her cohorts are up for re-election soon and they don’t want to take the responsibility for her actions. Hoping for better choices November.

      • Nice try. You should argue about the list of cuts available on the Hoboken website.

        You can fight for rubber stamp nepotism in November on Ravi’s ticket or in tandem with the Trojan Horse Mike Russo ticket.

        Boy those two are like peas in a pod.

  3. Very well-reasoned tweaks to the mayor’s initial budget. It looks like the finance subcommittee carefully considered where additional trimming was possible and acted accordingly.

    By the way, I’m shocked, shocked, absolutely shocked at how much the budget in the mayor’s office has increased in 2 years! 370K!!! You would think that for that kind of money the citizens would be getting better service, but the crew in the mayor’s office are the worst, the absolute worst. Melli was on top of EVERYTHING, the FB page, responsive to the citizens at any time of the day or night. Cordial, polite, professional. The communications guy that’s there now is busy running the mayor’s ongoing political campaigning, promoting friend’s websites on the taxpayer funded FB page and, generally, being rude to people considered to be “enemies of the mayor.”

    DCoS if forever making appointments to connect with people about scheduling a call, meeting or simply responding and then going AWOL when it’s time for the actual meeting or call back.

    CoS is busy being dishonest on the mayor’s behalf.

    It’s an absolute sh*t show in the mayor’s office.

  4. Nobody likes tax increases and it would have been perfectly appropriate for the Council to try to find responsible ways to reduce spending. The voters would almost certainly have appreciated the effort when they cast their votes in November.

    It’s really unfortunate that instead of engaging in a serious process to identify places where responsible cuts could be made, Fisher, DeFusco and their cohorts chose to play indefensible and irresponsible political games improperly targeting City employees for political retaliation. The budget amendments range from gimmicks (raiding the snow removal trust fund) to the noxious (trying to force the firing of an employee) to the comically petty. Taking $105,000 away from the police department and giving it to the fire department? Seriously? If the subject matter weren’t so serious this would be comedy worthy of a sitcom.

    This is truly government at it’s worst, and voters are likely to take note of that in November instead.

    • Hoboken doesn’t need a snow plow trust fund big enough for a decade of snow storms. Police Chief Ferrante thanked the council approving two police captains. He didn’t complain that new police motorcycles will wait.

      You’re the one resorting to gimmicks and a lot of shady whining Shadowstan. But the City Council did something your wife and the former mayor would be proud of if she had her name signed to it.

      Dawn Zimmer cut the mayor’s office budget by hundreds of thousands when she arrived. Ravi Bhalla, on the other hand, exploded it for unseemly political ends and all that’s happening is a return to the 2017 Dawn Zimmer budget sanity.

      Hoboken is grateful. Thank you City Council!