The Hoboken City Council defeated a new budget amendment for the second time this month.
The amendment, sponsored again by Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, would have cut approximately $1.9 million or 3.1 percent from the city’s preliminary budget of about $118.3 million.
During the June 2 meeting, the council voted down the councilwoman’s then proposed budget amendment with a 5-4 vote. That amendment would have cut approximately $2.7 million or roughly 4.5 percent from the introduced budget.
On April 7, the council approved a $118.3 million preliminary municipal budget that would keep taxes stable and make 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.
As introduced, 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.
Several council members aired their concerns with the latest version of the proposed budget amendment.
Councilwoman Emily Jabbour, who chairs the council’s finance subcommittee, said the latest iteration of the budget amendment was sent to the council just 10 minutes before the meeting.
‘Take a breath’
She said the finance subcommittee and administration are continuing to look for areas where the city could save money and further reduce the burden on taxpayers without negatively impacting city operations or the city’s work force.
Councilman Michael Russo, who also sits on the subcommittee, said he felt the vote on the amendment was rushed.
“At the end of the day there is more money to be found, or at least, more conversations to be had,” he said.
Fisher noted that she had several conversations with Russo and attempted to find compromises and incorporate the subcommittees “hot points” into the revised proposal, noting that the amendment would not have removed $400,000 earmarked for salary adjustments, $150,000 allocated for future tax appeals, and would have used $250,000 more from the city’s surplus in the budget among other considerations.
After the amendment failed with a 4-5 vote as council members Russo, Jabbour, Phil Cohen, Vanessa Falco, and Jim Doyle voted against the budget amendment’s adoption, Fisher said she felt the subcommittee was dragging its feet.
“What the finance committee is doing is working on a schedule that they’re comfortably delaying the review of the budget,” she said. “That’s not okay with me; I don’t think that’s right for the public.”
Jabbour pointed out that due to the pandemic the city is awaiting guidance from the state, noting that the state has yet to review the preliminary budget.
“Believe me, I’m not interested in any of this back and forth,” said Jabbour. “What I would like to point out is that the state has not actually reviewed or approved the introduced budget yet. The idea that we would be able to move forward on this and have the state actually get back to us is not going to happen soon.”
She added that the council is not working against a state deadline, as is normally the case with municipal budgets.
“I encourage everyone to take a breath and look at the big picture,” she said, noting that other municipalities are not rushing with their budget adoptions.