No one from the public spoke at the May 22 public hearing on the county budget, despite sharp increases projected for most of the municipalities in Hudson County this year. Although technically the county budget is lower overall, taxes will still rise because anticipated revenues declined sharply.
The 2012 fiscal year budget is $484 million, down from $492 million in 2011, but revenues declined to $191 million in 2012 from $213 million last year.
The county will have to raise $293 million from local taxpayers, up from $280 million last year. This means that 10 out of 12 Hudson County municipalities will see increases in varying degrees as a result.
Communities will divide up the increase based on assessed values in each community. Of the $13 million overall increase in taxes needed to be raised this year, Guttenberg will see the largest impact, seeing more than a 15 percent increase in its county taxes over last year. Weehawken, which was hit hard last year, will see an increase of 7.8 percent this year, followed by Union City at 7.26 percent increase; Bayonne, 7.21 percent; Hoboken, 5.7 percent; Jersey City, 5.06 percent; Kearny, 3.25 percent; Secaucus, 3.21 percent; Harrison, 2.08 percent; and North Bergen, 1.67 percent.
West New York will see a decline in its county taxes of 2.85 percent, and East Newark, a decline of 3.6 percent.
In dollar and cents, this means that the average assessed home in Guttenberg will see a $208 increase in county taxes this year; Bayonne, $117; Harrison, $52; Hoboken, $111; Jersey City, $11; North Bergen, $4; Union City, $109; Weehawken, $217; and Secaucus, $66.
Property owners in Hudson County currently pay an overall tax rate that comes from adding the county tax rate, municipal taxes, and school taxes. The school and city tax rates are approved by those entities.
Over the last few years, Hudson County suffered aftershocks of the 2008 downturn in the economy. This year the county has also been hit with cuts in federal funding for many critical programs, especially in Community Development Block Grants, which have devastated many not-for-profit organizations providing services to the most needy in the county.
Earlier this year, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise said the county hired a consultant firm to help deal with some of these impacts.
“To better support the county’s non-profit community, we will undertake an evaluation of our non-profit sector’s needs with assistance from the Washington-based NGO consulting firm Community Wealth Ventures,” DeGise said, noting that there have been cutbacks on the federal level. The county, DeGise said, must help not-for-profits find alternative funding sources.
Discussions with departments in New Jersey state government, through which a number of federal grants are funded, could increase welfare revenues by $1 million this year, county officials said.
“But this isn’t going to change the overall impact on the taxpayer this year,” said Freeholder Bill O’Dea.
“But this isn’t going to change the overall impact on the taxpayer this year.” – Freeholder Bill O’Dea.
The county also faced increases in spending in several areas. The Department of Corrections saw an increase from $63 million last year to about $67 million this year. The Schools of Technology saw an increase of about $1 million. Department of Family Services went from $52 million last year to $53.4 million this year. While the Department of Health and Human Services saw a sharp reduction from about $69 million last year to about $65 million this year, most of this was due to federal cut backs in aid. Payment on the county debt accounted for an increase of $2.7 million, while insurance costs rose more than $1 million in this year’s budget.
Revenues this year dropped from about $49 million last year to about $46 million in this year’s budget, with significant cutbacks in funding for psychiatric facilities, maintenance of state prisoners the county jail, and federal payments for immigrant detainees.
The $3.7 million in overtime costs for the sheriff’s department raised eyebrows during the budget meeting and prompted a review of other departments, including massive overtime costs at the Meadowview Hospital facility in Secaucus, where entry-level employees were showing overtime payments equal to or more than their annual salaries.
One worker with a $40,000 annual salary incurred $44,305 in overtime during that pay period, and a number of other similar cases for entry-level employees showed consistent overtime rates.
“Something is up at Meadowview Hospital,” said O’Dea. “These are entry-level jobs. If they need to hire more people, then they should do so and cut out the overtime.”
Freeholder Jeff Dublin said jobs were posted, but people who applied for them were never interviewed.
Freeholder Anthony Romano said that while the hospital explained significant overtime rates for nurses, the overtime rates for other workers were just as high.
One nurse had an annual salary of $71,000 but overtime payments for $85,000, Romano said. He was also concerned about overtime costs in the sheriff’s department, since the county instituted a new patrol program last year designed to bring down these costs.