As a Hoboken homeowner I am alarmed by news of the big budget deficit and I urge the mayor and city council to avoid any tax increase. With Hoboken property taxes already so enormously high, the projected deficit is clearly a spending problem that higher taxes are not going to fix in the long run.
For starters, why has the administration been keeping 25 extra people on the payroll if cutting these positions wouldn’t hurt city services, as the city has said? The city seems to be padding the payroll and charging it to the taxpayers.
But beyond that, the city does many things that are not its job. Hoboken files too many lawsuits and borrows too much money (especially to buy land that the owners don’t want to sell). The HOP system should be cut back (even though I often ride it) because it partly duplicates the NJ Transit lines; millions of dollars are wasted on employee health insurance when better or equal plans would cut costs dramatically); recycling should probably be abandoned (as many cities are doing); electric charging stations should not be a taxpayer expense; the Hoboken Parking Utility should certainly be contributing more than 18% of its revenue to the city budget, etc., etc. Labor costs used to be generally 50% of a city’s budget; now in Hoboken it’s up to 75 percent. This has squeezed out many services that people take for granted in other states.
We all know property taxes in Hoboken and New Jersey are very high, but we don’t realize how ridiculous they are until you see what people pay elsewhere. I was in Telluride, Col., and saw that condos worth twice as much as mine pay half as much in taxes. And the facilities and services that Telluride offers, especially for families, are vastly superior to what Hoboken offers.
I know that much of the problem is the state mandates, the county’s unchecked spending and a local school board that never gets its costs under control. But this doesn’t mean that the administration and council should spend money it doesn’t need to and doesn’t have. They’ve long been concerned with making Hoboken affordable for the middle class, but the biggest factor driving the middle class away is the rising tax burden. We all know people who have moved away because of taxes. With each departure the city becomes more divided between upper- and lower-income brackets. No amount of mandating that developers provide affordable housing is going to fix this. And rent control, as endless studies have shown, makes the problem worse, especially Hoboken’s extreme version.
The city’s population has grown 50 percent since I moved here in 2001 and with all that development, the city should be flush. But. of course, governments always overspend in good times, thinking up ambitious schemes, believing the money will be there forever. But as the city gets built out, new rateables will not be coming online as fast. So this is the time to take a knife to spending and not pass along the bill to already-strapped taxpayers.