The Hoboken City Council has defeated an ordinance that would have decreased residents’ municipal taxes this year with a 4-5 vote.
The budget amendment, sponsored by Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, would have given tax payers a 4.5 percent decrease, help pay for the restoration of two historic streets, and also called for restoring the city’s Rent Control Office, which Fisher said has been reduced under the Bhalla Administration.
Specifically, the amendment would have cut about $2.74 million from various departments and increased the rent control office’s budget by $130,000 as well as the budget for capital improvements by $250,000.
But council members who sit on the finance subcommittee said they had no time to review the proposed amendments, noting that other amendments proposed by Councilwoman Vanessa Falco were reviewed but not up for a council vote at the June 2 meeting.
“I do have to just point out that the subcommittee didn’t really have the ability to go over all of this and discuss any of it,” said Councilman Michael Russo, who sits on the committee. “I’m really disappointed that we didn’t have that opportunity to do that. I just don’t see how any of us here tonight could vote on this without really looking at it or reviewing it.”
Councilwoman Emily Jabbour, who chairs the committee, echoed these statements noting that Fisher submitted recommendations for budget amendments the day after the committee met on May 11.
“It’s interesting to me, as the budget chair, that I’m reading about a budget amendment that’s not gone to the budget subcommittee and has gone straight to the agenda for a full council discussion,” said Jabbour.
While Russo said that it is standard procedure for amendments to go before the subcommittee before they are presented to the council for a full vote, Council President Ruben Ramos said, “Any council member can submit amendments at any time.”
Ultimately council members Jabbour, Russo, Falco, Jim Doyle, and Phil Cohen voted against the proposed budget amendment’s adoption.
“Good governance has not been the hallmark of this administration and delaying the budget only hurts taxpayers. I am heartened that at least three of my city council colleagues put the interests of our taxpayers and ethics ahead of politics last night,” said Fisher in a statement following the council meeting.
“The dialogue about doing better for Hoboken taxpayers and residents during this most difficult time was started publicly last night which is important. I am confident that when all is said and done, in the year when most needed, the City Council will deliver a 2021 Municipal Budget that includes a sizable reduction in local taxes and a fully staffed Rent Control office.”
On April 7, the council approved a $118.3 million preliminary municipal budget that would keep taxes stable and made up for roughly $6.4 million in lost revenues caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic with $7 million of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan.
The preliminary budget keeps the municipal tax levy stable, decreasing slightly from $60,701,986 to 60,701,787 meaning that a taxpayer of an average property assessed at $525,000 will pay approximately $2,688, a slight decrease from last year’s, $2,698.
Last year, Hoboken faced a multi-million-dollar budget gap caused by an increase in pension payments, health care, union contract payments, garbage hauling contracts, loss in revenues from court fees and the Hoboken Parking Utility, and lack of surplus regeneration.
The budget woes caused the city to increase the municipal tax levy by 7.5 percent.