JERSEY CITY – As Steve Fulop prepares to ask his colleagues on the Jersey City Council to consider resolutions to merge two city departments with their Hudson County counterparts, the war of words over the proposals is heating up between the Ward E councilman and the Administration of Jerramiah Healy.
Last week, Fulop proposed consolidating the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC) into the Hudson County Economic Development Corporation (HCEDC), and merging the Jersey City Department of Cultural Affairs with the Hudson County Cultural Affairs Department, to streamline services and save tax dollars. According to Fulop, his consolidation plan could save more than $5 million.
Healy responded to Fulop’s proposal by calling him “ignorant” and chided the councilman for attempting to gain political traction ahead of his planned 2013 mayoral bid.
Ward C Councilwoman Nidia Lopez has also endorsed Fulop’s plan to merge the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation with the Hudson County Economic Development Corporation.
Now Jersey City Economic Development Corporation CEO Steve Lipski is weighing in.
In an e-mailed response to Fulop’s proposal, Lipski said, “Instead of putting forth a thoughtless resolution about eliminating the JCEDC, Councilman Fulop and Councilwoman Lopez should be joining us in the fight to save the [Urban Enterprise Zone] program that is funded by the sales tax collected from Jersey City UEZ businesses! Losing this aspect of the UEZ program would cost the people of Jersey City dearly because the city would lose about $14 million of sales tax collected from Jersey City UEZ businesses by the state each a year… Activities undertaken by the JCEDC and HCEDC are not duplicative, but they are complementary to one another.”
Gov. Christopher Christie has proposed the elimination of New Jersey’s 32 Urban Enterprise Zones, including Jersey City. Under the program Jersey City gets to keep about $12 million annually in sales tax dollars.
Fulop is now firing back, pointing to Lipski’s salary as JCEDC budget line item ripe for cutting. The city’s 2011 budget, which has been introduced but has yet to be passed, calls for a $351,000 cut in JCEDC funding and the elimination of four staff positions. Under this budget, however, Lipski would receive a $128,000 increase.
“The fact that they would try and sneak this in through the budget further strengthens my argument that we can save tax payers valuable dollars here and this is department is full of Healy politics,” Fulop said Tuesday. “If the JCEDC is considered such a core component that cannot be consolidated to save taxpayer dollars, how [do] the mayor and [Chief of Staff Rosemary] McFadden justify their [staff reductions] while the hard working non-political families in Jersey City are struggling to put food on the table?”
Healy rebutted Fulop’s comments, stating, “Councilman Fulop is again issuing a press release without any research. No layoffs are planned for the JCEDC, which is a non-profit entity that receives no funding from Jersey City property taxpayer dollars and is funded by UEZ sales tax revenue.”