An additional pay-to-play ordinance that limits a business’ ability to receive public contracts from the city if they make political contributions to municipal candidates and county political parties above a certain threshold was unanimously approved by Mayor Brian Stack and the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night.
They also announced plans to amend the 2012 budget, amongst other matters.
The ordinance limited businesses’ contributions to a mayoral or governing body candidate or committee to $300 total per calendar year, and contributions to joint city or Hudson County mayoral or governing body candidates to $500 total per calendar year.
Total contributions to any combination thereof made per calendar year by any business were set at $2,500 maximum.
In January, the N.J. Department of Community Affairs notified the city that it wouldn’t receive its previously awarded $12 million in transitional state aid (meant for cities in fiscal distress) until it adopted a pay to play ordinance. It had been reported that in the city’s application for the aid, Stack claimed the city had passed such a law, but it had not.
The board then voted a pay to play ordinance into effect in late February which ensured that the city would receive the aid.
A concerned resident asked whether or not the new ordinance would jeopardize the aid.
“I take it personally whenever anyone says we’d put at risk anything that would benefit this community,” Stack said. “It doesn’t come down to a pay-to-play ordinance, it comes down to how you run a city, and how you manage a municipality, and I think this administration has done a pretty good job.”
He went on to suggest that state rules such as the pay-to-play ordinance mandate should be applied to all municipalities that receive any sort of state aid, and not just the 12 that received the transitional aid. “So that it puts everyone on a level playing field,” Stack said.
Resolution to amend the 2012 budget
A resolution to amend the 2012 fiscal year budget will be presented at a hearing on April 12 at 6 p.m. at the William V. Musto Cultural Center, 420 15th Street.
The previously approved total budget for the city for 2012 was $104.4 million, and the amended total will be $105.2 million. This raises the total amount of money required to run the city by around $1.2 million.
This change reflects an $82,000 proposed tax increase which brings the total amount of taxpayer money used to support the municipal budget from $60.6 million to around $60.7. The increase amounts to less than one percent.
“The main reason for the increase is related to cost drivers outside of our control, such as insurance, Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue, and the police department,” Stack’s spokesman Mark Albiez said.
Revenue increases include the following grants received recently by the city: $4,000 from the N.J. Highway Safety Fund “Click it or Ticket,” $294,336 from the Body Armor Fund, and $280,800 from the N.J. Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Municipal Aid Program for Mountain Road.
The NJDOT amount was received on March 26.
Other increases in revenue listed in the resolution include a $225,000 reduction in anticipated snow removal expenses, including salaries and wages.
Competitive insurance contracting ordinance
The one ordinance presented during the meeting that was unanimously voted down concerned the city’s use of competitive contracting for the selection of insurance consultants.
The city has a Memoriam of Understanding (MOU) with the state in order to receive state aid, the city’s attorney Christine Vanek said. One of the requirements under this MOU was that an ordinance concerning such insurance broker contracts must be considered – not adopted.
The city uses a Fair and Open Process (FOP) system to select their insurance broker, in this instance Blue Cross Blue Shield. Unlike the sort of bidding process that requires a municipality to accept the lowest presented bid, the FOP system allows the city to hire a broker to select the insurance company that best suits the city’s needs.
Blue Cross Blue Shield currently adjusts their rates to cover these broker fees. If the ordinance were adopted, there would be no assurance that the broker fee would be covered by the insurance company as it is now, Vanek said.
“We voted down the ordinance because we do very well with who we have right now,” Stack said. “Our rates are much, much lower than what the renewal rates are statewide.”
Ordinances were passed that will exclude trucks and busses over four tons in weight on 41st Street from Park Avenue to New York Avenue and Seventh Street from Central Avenue to Summit Avenue.
Further ordinances were introduced concerning additional traffic and construction matters that will be presented for approval on April 28 at 11 a.m. at the Palisade Plaza Community Room located at 3700 Palisade Ave.
Stack also announced that commissioner meetings will be held on Saturdays in addition to the weekly meetings in the near future.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org