Residents rush to pay property taxes early, but state and IRS weigh in

The recently adopted federal tax plan includes a combined $10,000 deduction limit on property, state, and local income taxes. Previously, there was no limit on this deduction. Because of this significant change, taxpayers in certain towns began asking about pre-paying 2018 property taxes in 2017. Some towns reacted, extending tax office hours so their resident could pay early. Weehawken, Hoboken, and Jersey City did so. The payments had to be in by the end of the year.
But at the end of the week, Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order saying that all tax offices in the state had to accept and credit the early payments. Then, the IRS said the payments may not count in certain circumstances. The determining factor may be whether the real property taxes were “assessed” before 2018.
“It is disappointing that so many residents in Hoboken and around the country will be directly impacted by the choice of national Republicans to give tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent in this country with no direct relief to middle class and working families,” said Hoboken Mayor Elect Bhalla in a Tuesday email. “This tax plan has the potential to affect Hoboken and New Jersey’s affordability for years to come.”
He said he is already working with local and state officials to “determine how we may be able to help mitigate this latest assault from the president.”

New Hoboken mayor, council people take oath Jan. 1

The Hoboken inauguration ceremony for Mayor-Elect Ravi Bhalla, Councilman Jim Doyle, Councilwoman-Elect Vanessa Falco, and Councilwoman-Elect Emily Jabbour will be held on Monday, Jan. 1 at 2 Hoboken High School auditorium at 800 Clinton St. Those who wish to be seated in the main auditorium needed to get free tickets online, but there will be a room for people without tickets. Ticketed guests must be seated by 1:45 p.m. and seats that are unoccupied by that time will be made available to the general public. There is another room for guests who arrive late or who come without a ticket. The ceremony will be broadcast in that room.
Sen. Cory Booker will deliver remarks and other unannounced special guests will also be in attendance.
Those without tickets may register on a waitlist. On the day of the inauguration the waitlist will be voided and available seats will be given on a first come/first serve basis. The waitlist can be found at

Secaucus councilwoman resigns

Secaucus Councilwoman Susan Pirro handed in her official resignation letter at the Dec. 20 Town Council meeting, as she has been battling cancer. “It is with a heavy heart that I had to accept the resignation of Councilwoman Pirro,” Mayor Michael Gonnelli said at the meeting. “I would have preferred for her to remain on the council for many years to come.”
Later on at the meeting, the council announced local resident Orietta Tringali as its nominee for Pirro’s replacement. The council will vote on Pirro’s official replacement at the Jan. 2 reorganization meeting. Whoever gets the seat will have to run next November.
Tringali is a Harmon Cove resident. She is a current board trustee for the Secaucus Public Library, and is also on the school district’s PTA board.
“We did a search; our search was simple. I said, ‘I want Orietta,’” Gonnelli said in response. “And everyone agreed here. We’re 100 percent behind you.”
Three North Bergen officers make detective
North Bergen continues to build and strengthen its police department, with three officers receiving their detective shields on Dec. 22.
Constantino Apostolakos, Joseph Gorrin, and Antonio Tataranni took the oath of office at a ceremony in Town Hall chambers, presided over by Mayor Nicholas Sacco and Public Safety Commissioner Allen Pascual.
“You couldn’t find three more worthy candidates” to be elevated to detective, stated Police Chief Robert Dowd.
Tataranni has been with the force for more than 10 years and was a critical part of the staff in the chief’s office. Gorrin has been on the job for 23 years, assigned to patrol and then the courts. Apostolakos is the PBA president and worked in the record room in police headquarters.
The new detective assignments follow three promotions to sergeant earlier this month, and nine new officers being sworn in.

JC-based Goya gives food and toys to Catholic Charities

Goya, located in Jersey City and Secaucus, donated 120,000 pounds of food, as well as $10,000 from employees to food banks, shelters, and Newark-based Catholic Charities during the Christmas season.
Goya made its first installment of 10,000 pounds of food for the holiday season on Dec. 27 at Goya headquarters in Jersey City. Goya employees helped to load a Goya truck to transport Goya products to food banks and shelters throughout New Jersey. Goya also presented Catholic Charities with a check of $10,000 that will cover the costs of blankets and coats for the homeless.

Outgoing Hoboken mayor vetoes runoff election ordinance

On Friday, Dec. 22, Mayor Dawn Zimmer vetoed a council-approved ordinance to allow the city to host a referendum in November 2018 to possibly bring back runoff elections.
Until 2012, if several candidates ran in a mayor or council election in Hoboken, and no one got more than 50 percent, the top two vote-getters would compete in a final runoff. Ultimately, Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her supporters said the system was too costly and led to too much political wrangling, and supported a public referendum that did away with runoffs that year.
But after this year’s six-way mayoral election, in which Mayor-Elect Ravi Bhalla won with 32.7 percent of the vote, the majority of the council (who backed the other candidates) voted 7-2 on Wednesday Dec. 20 to hold a new referendum next November.
In a veto statement from the mayor on the Friday before Christmas weekend, Zimmer wrote several reasons why she vetoed the ordinance. She said that the public voted to eliminate the runoff elections five year ago and the merits of the issue were publicly discussed and debated.
Zimmer wrote, of the recent attempt at a change, “Every single councilperson who voted in support of this ordinance was either a losing candidate in the election, or actively supported a losing candidate. This hurried way this ordinance was handled reflect the personal frustrations of those dissatisfied with the election result. Indeed, it appears to be an attempt to de-legitimize the election of Mayor Elect Bhalla…the frustration of losing an election is not an appropriate basis for rushing to revisit a decision made by almost 9,200 voters five years ago.”
She wrote that the issue needed a public discussion, should be vetted in subcommittee, the data from the past elections should be analyzed, and that the two newly elected councilwomen should be given the opportunity to participate in the discussion. They will take office Jan. 1.
Councilman Michael DeFusco, who sponsored the ordinance, said he would reintroduce it in the new year. He said, “I plan to re-introduce this ordinance in 2018 and work to see it adopted by the new City Council and eventually passed at the ballot box, which is where it should be decided, not in a back room.”

JC Board of Ed replaces its attorney

In a dramatic change of policy, the Jersey City Board of Education voted against renewing the $100,000 contract with the legal firm Scarinci Hollenbeck at the Dec. 22 meeting.
Ramon Rivera, a partner in the firm, served as legal counsel for the board. But he was often criticized for his legal opinions that appeared to side with one faction of the board over another in several conflicts over the last three years. This was particularly true in deciding votes that established president and vice president of the board, in which abstentions were counted as “no” votes.
Critics claim some of his rulings sided with those board members who supported Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles.
A shift in the balance of power on the board over the last two elections allowed anti-Lyle board members to discontinue the board’s contact with the board.
Board members Amy DeGise, Luis Felipe Fernandez, and Vidya Gangadin voted against the move to discontinue services with the firm.
Board President Joel Torres, who is being sworn in as a Hudson County freeholder in early January, abstained.
The five remaining trustees voted to hire the firm Kenny Gross Kovats & Parton of Red Bank instead.

FBI raids Heights home

Members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with Jersey City Police, raided a home on Oakland Avenue in Jersey City Heights on Dec. 26. Media sources said that threatening letters may have come from the home, although officials said it didn’t have to do with terrorism. No arrests were made during the raid.