In Zimmer’s words… 400 days later
So what has been accomplished? (other than new hires)
Back in October 2008 (exactly 411 days ago), Hoboken411 published a letter from then Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer.
After this week’s City Council meeting, and Zimmer’s odd absence from the whole FY 2010 budget process, let’s take some time to highlight some of the very things Dawn said:
- “Starting on November 1st (2008), there’s going to be an efficiency evaluation of each department, including the Fire and Police departments. People with industry-related expertise will be on site to evaluate each department.”
— So – it’s been over a YEAR – and no complete “efficiency report” for each department? Too much time spent campaigning, and not enough governing???
- “We are finally getting serious about making the necessary budget cuts to enable us to live within our means.”
–With no budget cuts in sight, the whole debacle is taking a serious amount of time! What have they been doing?
- “Finally, our current situation highlights the unfairness created by two issues: tax abatements and the need for a property revaluation. Everybody should share the costs fairly. Those who live in tax abated buildings will pay no increase in taxes. Those who own property with valuations far below market will pay far less than those with higher valuations. It’s time to address these issues and create a tax structure that is fair to all.”
— Dawn seems to have abandoned her Re-valualtion mission, especially since several council members would be negatively affected by the whole process. The excuses seem way too coincidental for my comfort.
Hey, don’t shoot the messenger here – just reminding you all about what the current Mayor has said in the past.
Read original letter below, and after the jump…
Zimmer on the Hoboken budget crisis
4th Ward Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer sent Hoboken411 this letter for the Hoboken residents yesterday:
“Dear Hoboken residents,
I am very sorry to report, if you have not already heard, that Hoboken taxpayers are faced with an estimated 47 percent tax increase for the 1st and 2nd quarters. The increase for the balance of the year is likely to be a bit less, but still substantial. Judy Tripodi, the State monitor appointed to help us face up to and solve our financial problems, is reviewing and evaluating every City department. She has indicated that she will impose substantial budget cuts, including lay-offs, demotions and other difficult, but necessary measures.
Years of complete mismanagement have caused a crisis that cannot be solved without extraordinary and unfair costs to the citizens of Hoboken. Unfortunately, it is the victims and not the perpetrators who are paying the price for the wrongdoing. I intend to work as hard as possible with Ms. Tripodi to ensure that the taxpayers do not bear this burden alone.
I’m not a “finance person” but the basic principal behind sound budgeting is pretty simple: recurring expenses must be paid for by recurring revenues. You need to pay this year’s rent with this year’s salary. Instead, we’ve been paying our “rent” by some combination of selling the furniture and borrowing against next year’s bonus, which always turns out to be less than we expected. Steps are finally being taken to match our recurring revenues with our recurring expenses. Last year’s $10 million deficit, since it is not a recurring expense, will actually be spread out over a 5-year period.
SEE THE REST OF HER COMMUNICATION AFTER THE JUMP…
(Dawn Zimmer on the budget crisis, continued…)
Mayor Roberts has presented this as a failure of the City Council to “work together with him.” In reality, this mess is the result of too many years of City Councils that did, indeed, “work together with him.” When Carol Marsh and Tony Soares tried to expose the Mayor’s fiscal shenanigans back in 2005, they didn’t have the votes to stop him. When Carol ran for Mayor in 2005, too many Hobokenites didn’t believe her.
Assistance with Tax Burden
I recognize this is a severe hardship for everyone, and I have pleaded with Ms. Tripodi, the State monitor, to offer some kind of assistance for those who simply cannot afford to pay this tax in one sum. She is looking into the possibility of offering a partial payment plan to those most in need. I will follow up on this, and let you know.
Cost reductions/State Monitor’s Plans
Hoboken needs to prioritize its essential services, and become more efficient. We need to spend only what we can afford while maintaining an acceptable tax level. Unfortunately, we cannot solve years of mismanagement by simply cutting costs from this year’s budget. Somebody has to cut a check to pay the price. If life were fair, that person would be Dave Roberts, the person who caused this fiscal mess. Unfortunately, there is no real alternative to the taxpayers paying the bill. However, the good news, to the extent that there is any, is that we are finally acknowledging the problem, and taking the painful steps that are necessary to secure a financially sound future for our City.
Some information you should know:
- Again, the cost of last year’s $10 million deficit will be spread out over a five-year period. As most of you know, this deficit resulted from Mayor Robert’s overspending his own proposed budget, and hiding it from the City Council and the citizens of Hoboken until it was too late to do anything about it.
- The tax levy presented by Ms. Tripodi includes an anticipated $4 million cost reduction. (This equates to $8 million in cuts on an annualized basis). She told me that this is a conservative estimate, and she thinks the City of Hoboken can save much more than that. (I am meeting with her next week to hear her thoughts and to provide my suggestions).
- Ms. Tripodi reduced the tax levy from $65 million to $62 million after the Council voted it down on Wednesday night. (I was told she was influenced by the Council’s decision).
- Starting on November 1st, there’s going to be an efficiency evaluation of each department, including the Fire and Police departments. People with industry-related expertise will be on site to evaluate each department.
- As a State fiscal monitor, Ms. Tripodi has the authority to implement the changes she determines need to be made. She will take input from the Mayor and the City Council, but does not need to ask “permission.” This means that she can, and I believe will, do the things that the Mayor and a majority of the City Council do not have the political courage to do.
- Yesterday, Ms. Tripodi went to Trenton to ask for an exemption to statutory law that could further reduce the tax burden by another $3 million. Before the Council meeting I asked Ms. Tripodi if we could get this exemption, so I am glad to learn that she requested it. (I don’t know the outcome, but will email more next week).
- Public safety department contracts are up and will be renegotiated this year. This is key, because public safety salaries and benefits represent an enormous proportion of our budget. Ms. Tripodi assured me she would be at the negotiating table taking the message that Hoboken has reached its limit and compromises must be made.
We are finally getting serious about making the necessary budget cuts to enable us to live within our means. I have been impressed with Ms. Tripodi and believe she will do the job that needs to be done. There has been some debate over whether the “State” could be trusted. Some believed that they would simply sweep the problem under the rug to protect Mayor Roberts’ political future. Ms. Tripodi has stepped up and told us the truth about the mess that we’re in. Now she needs our support to do what needs to be done.
I am very sorry to be the messenger of such bad news. I know everyone is angry, and I don’t blame you. I encourage all of you to make your voices heard, and let everybody know just how angry you are. Most importantly, come out and vote next May.
Finally, our current situation highlights the unfairness created by two issues: tax abatements and the need for a property revaluation. Everybody should share the costs fairly. Those who live in tax abated buildings will pay no increase in taxes. Those who own property with valuations far below market will pay far less than those with higher valuations. It’s time to address these issues and create a tax structure that is fair to all.
I will know more next week, but feel free to email or call with any suggestions or questions.