– In a letter dated June 19 and addressed to Jersey City employees and department heads, Mayor-elect Steven Fulop announced that, effective Aug. 1, only emergency workers will be allowed to take home city-owned vehicles.
The new directive ends a perk Fulop has for years tried to scale back and end as Ward E city councilman. During his eight years on the City Council, however, Fulop was unable to garner enough votes to end the practice – in part because City Council representatives were among those given municipal cars.
As a councilman, Fulop refused the city owned car that would have been assigned to him, arguing it was a waste of taxpayer dollars.
According to Fulop, who was elected mayor on May 14 and who will be sworn in on July 1, there are currently 58 city employees with municipal-issued vehicles with no restrictions. According to Fulop’s office, the mayor-elect’s June 19 letter was sent to the 58 employees, explaining the new policy and requesting they turn in their keys by August 1.
After that date, any city employee who needs a city-issued vehicle for work will have to sign a car out from the city motor pool at the beginning of the work day and return it by the end of the work day.
Any city-owned car that leaves the boundaries of Jersey City without prior approval will be considered theft of property and will be pursued as such, according to the new policy.
“For too long, Jersey City had a wasteful practice of allowing city employees as well as City Council members to take home city-owned cars with no justifiable reason,” Fulop said in a release Wednesday. “The days of wasteful perks are over in Jersey City.”
According to the letter to city employees, which is being shared with media outlets, Fulop anticipates that “the new policy will reduce the need for such a large fleet [of city-owned cars], so that some vehicles [can] be sold at auction. That revenue, coupled with the savings in gasoline, insurance, maintenance, and repairs that will result from the reduction in fleet and the restricted use, can provide the city with significant savings that can be put to use in a more productive manner.”
Fulop said the city will continue to reimburse employees who use their personal vehicles for work-related travel at the standard Internal Revenue Service rates.
In addition, Fulop has requested that directors of autonomous city agencies adhere to the directive as well.
“I am strongly suggesting that the autonomous agencies change their policies immediately to eliminate this unnecessary perk,” Fulop said. “It’s the right thing to do on behalf of the citizens of Jersey City. Hopefully we won’t have to escalate this request to autonomous agencies, in which we need to exert pressure for them to do the right thing.”
The mayor-elect’s office did not give an estimate of how much savings the city might realize from ending the take-home car perk. – E. Assata Wright