Cutting costs

Hoboken City Council introduces lower municipal budget

The Hoboken City Council introduced an amended 2019 municipal budget which would decrease the proposed 2.8 percent tax levy to 1.3 percent.
The Hoboken City Council introduced an amended 2019 municipal budget which would decrease the proposed 2.8 percent tax levy to 1.3 percent.

The City Council introduced an amendment to the city’s $118.2 million preliminary municipal budget, decreasing it to $117.4 million, at its meeting on May 1.

The budget funds municipal spending from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2019, and includes grants to items like the Pedestrian Safety Grant and other programs and a payment to the city’s public library of $5.8 million.

The amended preliminary budget will save Hoboken taxpayers money because it decreases the overall tax levy by $836,000 meaning the tax rate will only increase by 1.3 percent instead of the projected 2.8 percent in the original proposed budget.

Members of the council originally announced a proposed amended budget, which would have decreased the overall tax levy by $1 million. But this was cut to $836,000 after members met with the administration, according to Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who chairs the finance subcommittee.

The council introduced the amended budget with an 8-1 vote. Councilwoman Emily Jabbour voted against the amendment.

The council will hold a public hearing on the newly amended budget during their next scheduled council meeting on Wednesday, May 15, at City Hall, 94 Washington St.

The council must wait to approve the budget on final reading until after the budget is approved by the state. If it is not approved before the May 15 meeting, the council will advertise and hold a special council meeting to vote on the amended budget.

Department spending

The amendment, sponsored by Fisher, makes reductions in several city departments.

It will cut $295,000 in the city’s Department of Environmental Services within the sanitation department. This primarily reflects the lower contractual costs of sanitation as well as the ability to use funds from the Snow Removal Trust for snow plowing and ice removal this year.

It also cuts $285,000 from the city’s administration department. This reflects the hiring freeze for an assistant business administrator. Patrick Wherry left that position in February to become the Borough of Waldwick’s business administrator. It also includes cuts in the budget for runoff elections and in municipal court salaries and wages.

A $115,000 reduction returns the salaries and wages in the mayor’s office to the amount spent in the 2017 budget.

Last December, the council voted to limit positions in the mayor’s office to two non-civil service or “unclassified” employees once one of the three current unclassified employees leaves his position. The ordinance, vetoed by Mayor Ravi Bhalla, was sponsored by Councilman Michael DeFusco, who lost to Bhalla in the 2017 municipal election.

At the time, Corporation Council Brian Aloia said the ordinance would not accomplish what the council wanted, and that the proper procedure to limit hires was to vote on how much money to allocate to a specific department’s budget.

The amended budget also cuts spending in the department of corporation counsel by $139,000, reducing the special counsel budget to below $1 million per year.

The Police Department will also have $105,000 cut from its budget, achieved by delaying the purchase of new motorcycles and a 5 percent decrease in its overhead budget.

An additional $14,000 was also taken from various departments reflecting salary related changes, according to the resolution for the amended budget.

Financial allocations

The amended budget also includes more money for the fire department, and the Hop and senior shuttles.

According to the budget, the city will bond for $70,000 for an additional Hop bus because demand has increased for the service once it became free earlier this year.

The budget includes an additional $90,000 in salaries and wages to the Fire Department to provide more support for the city’s firefighters and fire chief.

The budget also allocates $8,000 for a down payment on a new medical van for the city’s senior citizens.

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