Hoboken council to vote on prelim $118M budget with no tax increase thanks to federal aid

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The Hoboken City Council will vote on a preliminary $118,251,029 budget with no tax increase thanks to federal aid provided by the American Rescue Plan, Mayor Ravi Bhalla said.

Photo via Hobokennj.gov.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, we’ve been able to right size our finances and establish a budget with no increase in municipal taxes. This budget is a critical step in our continued recovery from the pandemic, that provides much needed relief to residents, many of whom have been struggling over the past year,” Bhalla said in a statement.

“At the same time, we’re also ensuring that we continue to fund critical projects including the City’s water main replacements, repaving roads and advancing Vision Zero improvements, upgrading City parks, acquiring additional open space, and much more.”

According to the mayor’s office, the Mile Square City has seen approximately $6.4 million in lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, with major losses incurred from the municipal court ($1.2 million), construction code enforcement ($560,000), the parking utility transfer ($2.3 million), and $525,000 among interest income – among other things.

“I also want to express my sincere thanks to Senator Menendez, Senator Booker and Congressman Sires for ensuring the American Relief Fund included funding for states and cities, which will play an important role in our city finances in the years ahead,” Bhalla added.

Menendez and Booker announced last month that Hudson County would receive $424.6 million from President Joe Biden’s (D) American Rescue Plan, with Hoboken netting $27,201,022.91, as HCV first reported.

To that end, Bhalla indicated that this budget would utilize $7 million from the rescue plan funds, allowing the city to present a stable budget and save $1.8 million in surplus from last year.

He also mentioned that stimulus monies will be allocated towards an on demand, micro-transit service similar to Via in Jersey City, expanding COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, investing in water infrastructure upgrades, and “financial recognition” for qualifying municipal employees that have been vital during the public health emergency.

Furthermore, more relief is on the way for business owners and residents who have struggled over the past 13 months or so.

“I’m pleased to share that my administration will soon be opening up an application process for our small businesses, residents who are in need of rental relief, and our Hoboken non-profits hit hard during the pandemic,” the mayor stated.

“These grants will serve as an important lifeline to our community members who are doing everything possible to overcome the significant financial challenges of the past year.”

The council will vote on the preliminary budget this evening at their 7 p.m. meeting, which will convene on Zoom, and while it is expected to pass easily, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher doesn’t sound impressed.

“After Mayor Bhalla delivered the highest tax rate increase in a decade, having some tax relief from $6.4 million in American Rescue Plan revenues is welcome,” she said.

“But with his proposed cost increases in the 5 percent range, it appears the mayor is using these emergency funds to continuing his spending spree as opposed to refilling our depleted surplus.”

Last year’s $118 million budget came with a 9.8 percent municipal tax increase, but homeowners only felt a roughly 1.4 percent hike largely due to a 6.52 percent tax decrease from the county.