Hoboken Budget Hearing – Recap II
11/18/2008 Part II Update:
Interested in hearing what the City Council members said at last night’s Budget Hearing?
Part 2 – The Council Speaks
You read some of the highlights of the public’s turn at the microphone here, so now here’s a look at some of the comments from the City Council. There was frustration that most city directors and financial personnel didn’t show up to answer their questions. Though the directors of Environmental Services and Human Services were there, others including the head of the Parking Utility and Public Safety Director didn’t show, making it hard for the council to get questions answered about some of the biggest parts of the budget.
Russo outlines his proposed cuts
Budget and Finance committee chairman Michael Russo says he has identified a combination of changes to Judy Tripodi’s $121 million budget that could reduce it by $25.8 million, including:
- Firing all employees who live outside of Hoboken
- Firing all recently hired provisional employees
- Eliminating seasonal employee positions
- Unspecified demotions
Russo said “81 employees could be let go immediately,” along with 23 seasonal employees. Others suggested a mass firing would lead to many lawsuits that could cost the city dearly.
See more council talk after the jump…
(Hoboken Budget Hearings – Part II, continued…)
Moving the Muni Garage to 1600 Park?
The 3rd ward councilman also repeated his call to relocate the Municipal Garage to city-owned land between the Willow and Park Avenue bridges to Weehawken. The city bought the land years ago with the intent to develop it into a park, but it’s remained empty like so many of Dave Roberts’ parks promises. Russo says the city received grant money to purchase the property, but never used it to pay down bonds issued to pay for it! The city bonded to buy the 1600 Park property. Millions of grant dollars for parks is apparently sitting in a city account somewhere unused. Russo suggests that money would be better spent now securing land for the SW6 Park in southwest Hoboken.
But why move the Muni Garage to 1600 Park?
Russo says that is the ideal location to build a multi-municipality facility that could be shared with Weehawken right on the border of both towns. The city currently pays over a million dollars a year on the interest from the multiple mortgages on the downtown Muni Garage, which has been used to hide the growth in Dave Roberts’ budgets. The faster the city moves the Muni Garage, the quicker it can sell the Observer Highway property to the winning bidder for $25.5 million and pay off the bonds Roberts and his council majority took out on the property to keep taxes artificially stable.
The Two Terrys weigh in
1st ward councilwoman Terry Castellano said she had several suggestions, but felt under the circumstances she should run them first by fiscal monitor Judy Tripodi. Terry LaBruno seemed frustrated by all the talk of job cuts and demotions (she has several family members on the city payroll) and pooh-poohed the cuts, calling them “a wish list.” Castellano countered that the council “has the true numbers for the first time in seven years” noting they submitted a plan for cuts last year that Roberts ignored. She added Tripodi has told her a final budget could be in the council’s hands sometime in January. Russo noted Tripodi is still going through last year’s purchase orders trying to make heads or tails of them,
Hard to suggest cuts without answers
5th ward councilman Peter Cunningham also noted many of the council’s suggestions were made last year and that bills from previous budget years are just now getting paid. He also cautioned Russo to consider what city services would be cut if Russo’s widespread non-resident firings were to take effect. 2nd ward councilwoman Beth Mason noted she had requested all claims, checks written, and payments in an electronic format and had yet to receive them.
Members of the public also complained that there was a lack of transparency in the budget documents. Mason added the council had “Been around this tree enough”, saying they offer ideas and the administration ignores them. She said the council is not getting answers to questions.
Other meeting notes
Council President Nino Giacchi didn’t make the meeting because he is away on vacation this week. Councilman/Assemblyman Ruben Ramos hardly made a peep the whole meeting, remaining silent when a member of the public called for the elimination of his mother’s Office of Constituent Services.
In all the budget hearing lasted about two hours, with no formal action taken. Whether any of the suggestions from the council and the public are actually worked into the spending plan is apparently up to Judy Tripodi.