Hoboken Budget: State moves in


The State Moves In

hoboken-state-local-finance-board-susan-jacobucci.jpgAs predicted, the state Local Finance Board voted to approve a plan that essentially takes over all spending by the City of Hoboken.

That said, local finance director Susan Jacobucci made it a point to repeat, “This is not a takeover” before listing all of the terms and conditions of “board supervision” of the City of Hoboken. The terms are outlined below, but in a nutshell the city can’t spend a dime without the state signing off on it in some way. They will also have say in who gets those dimes, including professional service contracts and consultants.

Here’s what Hoboken411 found out about how it went down:

Packed house, but LFB gets off to a late start

The meeting got underway about a half hour later than scheduled, and people guessed that there might have been last minute wrangling going on between the politically appointed members of the Local Finance Board and staff members of the Division of Local Government Services. Mayor David Roberts was there with a cadre of taxpayer-paid professionals. City Council members Beth Mason, Dawn Zimmer, and Peter Cunningham were there, but no other council members made the trip to make their case and hear what the state had in store for them.


Taxpayers Helen Hirsch and Maurice DeGennaro also addressed the board. Once called to order, Director Jacobucci opened by saying the actions of Hoboken’s officials have “Substantially jeopardized the fiscal integrity of the city. ”

Mayor Roberts blames others

The board recognized Mayor Roberts to speak first. He began by calling Hoboken an “Interesting city,” extolling it’s virtues and again repeating the old saw that Hoboken’s property value has jumped during his term, citing numbers cooked up at the height of the real estate boom. Roberts then started pointing the finger of blame for his budget – up from $52 million when he took over to well over $100 million today – at public safety, pension, and health care costs before using the P word: Politics. He admitted his budget was wrong, and that there was a “sizable mistake” ($11.7 Million) but blamed the council for not taking action on his revenue generating ideas (new meters, higher fees, selling the Police Station, etc.) Roberts wrapped up by saying he was embarrassed, but happy the state has intervened.


(State takes over, continued…)

Cunningham returns fire

Fifth ward councilman Peter Cunningham called state supervision of Hoboken’s finances “an unfortunate act” and asked “How did we get here?” He said mismanagement has been going on for 5 or 6 years and spending has been “out of control.” Cunningham said, “Under certain conditions I welcome state supervision and a monitor,” but he went on to put the board on notice that taxpayers are watching and expecting a lot from “The State.” Cunningham said given the state’s own financial track record that “we are concerned that perhaps you won’t be able to get it done” before adding he is hopeful that they will.

Zimmer defends city council

Fourth ward councilwoman Dawn Zimmer reminded the Local Finance Board that the Mayor “Overspent by $10 million and tried to hide it by not paying bills.” Zimmer said the council “tried in good faith to exercise checks and balances” while past councils had acted as a “rubber stamp” for Mayoral spending. She called for fiscal controls, saying the city has “an over-spending problem not an under-taxing problem.”

Mason’s roadmap to Roberts’ mismanagement

Second ward councilwoman Beth Mason was next to put her objections on the record. She pointed out over the past five years concerned residents have attempted to raise awareness among the community, the courts, regulators, and even the Local Finance Board about “the financial, operational, and legal failures regarding our city, and to offer solutions.” She also noted this is not just a financial problem, noting “significant issues have come to light as it relates to the SWAT investigation, the Hoboken Building Department, and the Hoboken Parking Utility,” as well as other critical operational and legal failures by the Roberts administration that have been “governmentally suppressed.”

Mason also repeated her call to engage in an open selection process to retain an independent financial/restructuring firm with expertise and a proven track record in resolving complex operational and financial matters. Mason said the city “has been trying half-baked solutions for far too long.”

Helen Hirsch Speaks Out

Taxpayer and city watchdog Helen Hirsch opened by saying, “I’m an old woman who learned the hard way what a nickel was worth,” adding “People are watching to see if you honor and support the rule of law.: She said, “Something is wrong” and connected the dots between high taxes and corruption, a comment that made both Mayor Roberts and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner wince. Ms. Hirsch said “If I had my way a highly skilled, totally independent person from outside the state” would be brought in to deal with Hoboken’s mess. She went on to say Roberts “Declared his disdain for the democratic process, and he must be harnessed!”

One-Dollar-A-Year city advisor Maurice DeGenarro also gave the board his two cents, noting the city needs to “live within its means.” He said spending has gotten out of hand with Roberts “loading up the payroll continuously.”

So what’s the verdict?

After listening to the comments, Jacobucci made her recommendations to the board. There were so many stipulations that it would have been easier to say “There will be a state takeover of Hoboken’s finances,” except Jacobucci made it a point to say this is not a takeover, but a broad supervision. The director said there is “No reason Hoboken should even be here today,” calling it “a sad state of affairs.”

Among the stipulations of the state supervision:

  • LFB will have control of the preparation of the municipal budget. Mayor can draw one up and council can approve it, but nothing sticks without LFB approval.
  • All contracts over $4500 are subject to approval by the director.
  • All financial supervision of officers and directors will be done through the state. This includes the revenue department and tax collector.
  • A fiscal control officer/monitor to be named later will be installed.
  • The state will not negotiate collective bargaining agreements, but not will be ratified without state approval.
  • All professional services and consulting contracts will go through the state, which can appoint and dismiss any and all financial manager.
  • The state will also perform “performance audits.”
  • The terms of employment for all city workers, including their regular work hours will be fixed by the state, which will also oversee the “liquidation of city liabilities.”

Weehawken’s Richard Turner speaks up


Despite his obvious conflict as the Mayor of a city that borders Hoboken and who is negotiating an inter-governmental services agreement with Hoboken, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner was the first LFB member to speak up. He said Hoboken “can’t restructure in one year” and that first it must “clean up the mess, and second adopt a new budget,” which he added, “will be painful.” Turner said it is not the responsibility of the state to restructure Hoboken. He did not recuse himself during the unanimous LFB vote on the non-takeover takeover.

Next up: The State appoints a monitor, widely rumored to be Susan Jacobucci’s deputy Judy Tripodi. Then the rubber hits the road and The State either does what it can to cover Roberts tracks, or uncovers the fiscal and operational disaster he’s created for all the world to see.

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16 Comments on "Hoboken Budget: State moves in"

8 years 1 month ago

In brief, the state supervision is tantamount to state takeover. It is a disgrace that a city with the revenue stream of Hoboken’s is in this terrible financial shape due to overspending and bad decisions. It is time for change to a professional and ethical form of leadership. The radio host of 101.5 says it all…GRIP…”Get Rid of Incumbent Politicians”. Get out to vote in May 09 and decide on whom (if any) of the incumbents or others you like. The power to change the direction of Hoboken is in your hands. 💡

8 years 1 month ago

Is notnow the mayor or work for him? I didn’t see his dishonor’s name mentioned once in the blame game article.

8 years 1 month ago

Notnow what majority are you talking about? It seems to me that the coalitions have been all over the place depending on the issue being discussed. The five who voted down the waivers seemed to come together for that vote only. They didn’t even stick together for the final vote on the budget which was passed – if I recall it passed 6-3 with only Mason, Russo and Castellano voting against.

If reform wins a clear working majority of the council in May and still doesn’t get anything done, your point will be well taken in 2010. But in terms of what went on this year, it seems to me that your point is pretty much bullshit.

8 years 1 month ago

“Notnow” you are correct. I was wondering where Susan Jacobucci’s entire statement citing “political bickering” as being the primary cause of this state action.

The fact of the matter is, that right or wrong, the council was trying to put the mayor’s feet to the fire. The mayor was wrong for putting forth that budget, but the council’s political agenda inhibited their senses (At least 5 of the 9 members. When told by DCA back in March or April to pass the budget, they should have; or at least put forth a plan that would correct the problem. The council could have truly embarrassed the mayor had they put forth and enacted their own plan to cure that budget problem. In a meeting in May, the DCA asked members of the City Council do they have an alternate solution. The answer was “NO”.

Anyhow, here we are. The State is coming in guns a blazing, and the citizens won’t have a voice in their government for a year. Remember come election which politicians tried to prevent this from happening and which ones permitted it to. I know I will.

8 years 1 month ago
OK. We are in our 15th month of a new Council, which also controls a majority vote. What have we done so far? We intentionally voted to allow a State takeover. We tried to back peddal and say a State takeover was a bad thing. The State is now here and everyone will play shocked, wondering how they got here. The City of Hoboken in the last 15 months is involved in more Law Suits than the “Girls Gone Wild” founder. The payroll has actually grown in the last 15 months. We have not approved a single project that will bring new revenues in line, past 2009. We managed to stall all of them for political reasons. Our infrastructure including our roads are getting worse. The amount of panhandlers is rapidly rising around the City. Auto theft and GPS thefts are on the rise. No new parking has been created or is planned for Hoboken in the last 15 months. No new senior or affordable housing has been planned. Nearly every permit fee has been increased. Parking at a meter or Garage cost more than ever. Taxes are going up and will continue to rise if expenses are not cut coupled with finding, and attracting new development opportunities to help raise FUTURE revenues. While all that I have mentioned cannot be blamed on one Councilperson, this is a reflection of what the majority has produced. It’s kind of like the Yankees, a bunch of overpaid All Stars that won’t even… Read more »