2010 Hoboken Budget Debacle Begins

12/4/2009 Update:

You like staring at numbers that will certainly change?

Well, here’s your chance. The Hoboken FY 2010 (first version) Budget. All in one easy to read document. Note that the numbers were achieved by “stabbing in the dark” according to Nick Trasente.

Enjoy! (click to read)

hoboken-fy-2010-introductory-budget-draft

12/3/2009:

While some folks in Hoboken may tout last night’s budget introduction as a “stunning achievement,” or something ridiculous along those lines – be aware that you shouldn’t count your eggs before they hatch. It was only an introduction, and the overall presentation had more holes than Tiger Woods’ career. Let’s review some bullet points shall we?

Budget Introduction Recap

hoboken-sfy-2010-budget-slide-buttonFor nearly two hours Nick Trasente, Hoboken’s State-appointed Finance Director, led the council members and the public through his Powerpoint presentation of the 2010 City Budget. He informed the public that he would only be taking questions from the council, not members of the public.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer and State Fiscal Monitor Judy Tripodi were both no-shows. This is surprising that Zimmer didn’t bother to introduce her first budget as Mayor, even Dave Roberts attended council meetings for budget introductions. Some may argue that this isn’t Zimmer’s budget, it is Judy Tripodi’s, however, Nick Trasente mentioned several times last night that Mayor Zimmer “met with everyone” regarding this budget.

Preliminary Numbers

hoboken-preliminary-budget-imageTotal Budget: $98,766,211 ($55,611,214 is to be raised by taxes).

Largest components of this budget:

  • Salary & Wages: $44,186,158
  • Debt Service: $8,659,817
  • Pension: $6,886,454
  • Health Benefits/Other Insurance: $15,985,031
  • Salary Settlements & Adjustments: $4,500,000

Notes, Observations and Future Considerations

  • Trasente said that this budget DOES NOT include the impending INCREASES in Salary & Wages, Health Benefits, and Pensions.
  • The budget only allocates for a $500,000 decrease in State Aid which doesn’t seem realistic since Corzine plans to withdraw $20.7 Million dollars in already committed Municipal funds and he expects department heads to identify $400 million in spending cuts.
  • There’s no provision to cover major expenses such as the projected cost of Sinatra Field/pier repair which could be anywhere from $1,000,000 to $10,000,000 or more.
  • There’s no provision for a financial calamity such as the potential collapse of HUMC which could cost the taxpayers a minimum of $65,000,000 in debt (bond plus interest).
  • And to everyone’s dismay, NO BUDGET CUTS! The 25% tax cut promised by Dawn Zimmer is nowhere to be found in this budget. And the promises in Zimmer’s campaign literature: “She is identifying cost-efficiencies in order to make meaningful budget cuts.” (October 2009 mailer) and this gem: “Only Dawn Zimmer has a detailed plan to cut municipal taxes by 25% in the first year alone. “ (June 2009 mailer) never made an appearance last night. How does that make you feel?
  • Not only are there no budget cuts, but Trasente said there would be “seven or eight” additional positions filled in the new budget, including a health officer, building inspector and nurse.
  • Lastly, much of last year’s tax increase was caused by Tripodi’s insistence that the an $8.6 million “Reserve for Uncollected Taxes” be raised. That was overkill, but the money was taken out of taxpayers’ pockets and won’t be put back despite the fact the reserve in the new budget is only $380,000! A surplus of over $3 million from last year is also built into the new budget (the city didn’t even send thank you cards!)

Council Questions & Answers (sort of)

Following the presentation, council members were given time to ask Trasente questions. Councilman Ravi Bhalla said he didn’t like what he was seeing and that there isn’t a substantial reduction in any department from 2009 to 2010. (What are the Vegas odds for him breaking from the crew for his own Mayoral run in 2013?)

Council President Peter Cunningham said it’s incumbent upon the Directors to focus on efficiencies in their departments. (Nice way to pass the buck!)

Then Cunningham turned it over to newly appointed 4th Ward Councilman Mike Lenz as Chair of the Finance Committee to add “color to the discussion.” (That’s code for “run the show.”)

Unimpressive Rambling Councilman

lenz-ramblesLenz began by stating, “THE WAY A BUDGET IS SUPPOSED TO WORK…” and within minutes, Trasente appeared bored and left his position at the mic so then Lenz began a rambling lecture for the whole room.

“Is it a good budget?” Lenz softly asks. “I don’t know,” he responds to himself.

“Is it a bad budget?” Lenz continues. “I don’t know.” (again, brilliant.)

“But it is a budget,” Lenz finally surmises. (Eureka! We have a genius at the mic!)

At this point, Lenz rambles and lectures for another 5-7 minutes… then, “Where are we?” Lenz asks. (Good question because the room was falling asleep!)

“We have a budget…” Lenz continues to a room of sighs and groans.

After the Lengthy Lenz Lecture (411 just coined a new one: “LLL” or “Triple L’s”), Councilman Michael Russo adds that he doesn’t believe Dawn Zimmer had any input into the budget and wants her to send the council her proposals and plans (another reference to Zimmer’s campaign promises). Lenz responds to that by saying “She [the Mayor] has an important role to play BUT this is the council’s budget, not the Mayor’s or the Fiscal Monitor’s budget.”

So in one fell swoop, by design of course, Lenz was given the power to relieve Zimmer from the budget process, essentially taking over the role he was appointed to do: as Shadow Mayor of Hoboken.

Another Roberts-Style “Ballooning Budget?”

About an hour into his presentation, Trasente contradicts what Councilman Peter Cunningham said earlier in the day, claiming that the city would have to bond to pay about $3M worth of tax appeals. But now Nick claims that the city can only bond for tax refunds (only about $400k out of $3M), and only before they are issued. The city cannot bond for the tax credits or the refunds once they are sent out. So the city pretty much has to swallow close to a $3M revenue shortfall due to tax appeals.

Don’t you recall Roberts introducing a similar sized budget? Well, that budget eventually ballooned to $110M+ once all shortfalls were incorporated. If the trickery continues, you may very well be looking at a new record! But we’ll just have to wait and see about that…

More to come next month…

The Introduced Budget was voted on and approved by the council, but several council members refrained from asking questions, deciding to save them for the Budget Meeting which is scheduled for January 6th.

Leave a Reply

46 Comments on "2010 Hoboken Budget Debacle Begins"

realstuff
Member
realstuff

“Cutting the budget is like going to heaven. We all know what we have to do to get there, but nobody wants to do it”. As has been said at the recent budget introduction (not approval), this is a starting point or baseline to commence proper action now and we have spent approx. 6 months of this budget already. It then follows, that we have to start planning and forecasting for next year’s budget now!…..have a nice day!

jazzeru
Member
jazzeru

lets be honest, the rhetoric, excuses, and political finger pointing will never end. hoboken’s administration is a joke and i feel sorry for the homeowners who have to pay for the idiocy of our city hall.

anyone who pays attention to this stuff has to be horrified. with only 25% voter turnout nothing will change until the next 20-30% gets involved and says enough is enough. in my opinion that bloc is mostly renters in their 20’s and 30’s who are ambivalent and will jump ship anyway shortly after marriage or kids.

In response to realstuff who said:
“Cutting the budget is like going to heaven. We all know what we have to do to get there, but nobody wants to do it”. As has been said at the recent budget introduction (not approval), this is a starting point or baseline to commence proper action now and we have spent approx. 6 months of this budget already. It then follows, that we have to start planning and forecasting for next year’s budget now!…..have a nice day!

truth1
Member
truth1

Will Judy Tripodi, Fiscal Control Monitor attend our budget workshop(?), at which the public cannot speak. At least the citizens of Hoboken can hear her response to any questions the city council may have in an open and tranparent forum. In this format, she does not have to respond to the public and thus can’t continue to use this as an excuse. In a sense, she is our de-facto Business Administrator and with her $130K salary, she should be there. Additionally, she should also attend the city council meetings like a real business administrator and earn her $130K salary and face the public like her position calls for (IMO).

plywood
Member
plywood

This may be naive, but if this model repeats itself every year for decades, why isn’t the process started earlier? I don’t get it. This is like a bakery – they pull your order at the counter with you having no idea what anything costs if you don’t ask, and then you hope there is enough $ in your pocket to cover it. If not, oh well, get another bond, it’s not like it’s the council’s money.

truth1
Member
truth1

The running of our municipality takes budgeting which incorporates, budgeting (with accounting and bookkeeping), auditing, forecasting, planning, problem analyis, decision making, time frames and discipline. We have elected a mayor and council to represent us and it is their responsibility to hire the pros to get this city run properly The budget which was just intorduced gives us the starting point or baseline to be used to commence this ongoing process. Again, it is our job to keep informed and abreast our elected official’s actions (and what we need is action and not just hollow words). Yes, we must act as the watchdogs….Of course this will have to be accomplished under the currect state supervision situation.

plywood
Member
plywood

If the fiscal year will be essentially over by the time a budget is approved,isn’t that bookkeeping as opposed to planning? Anyone can write the budget for something that has already occurred – just add up the receipts. This is an ongoing crisis in leadership. Do they start Christmas shopping and budgeting for same on December 24th too?

jman01
Member
jman01

Yes, it is just bookkeeping and what we need is good budget FORECASTING, a foreign concept to the Zimmer administration. Our new council and mayor don’t get it, not even rambling Lenz.

In a previous council meeting during the doggie day care kennel discussion, Ravi Bhalla made the stupid remark that it’s not the council’s job to predict what will happen. In other words, he thought they should approve the kennel now and worry about the consequences later. What a fool, of course the council has to anticipate the consequences of their actions and votes and the future impact it will have on the community….and that pertains to budget decisions too.

In response to plywood who said:
If the fiscal year will be essentially over by the time a budget is approved,isn’t that bookkeeping as opposed to planning? Anyone can write the budget for something that has already occurred – just add up the receipts. This is an ongoing crisis in leadership. Do they start Christmas shopping and budgeting for same on December 24th too?

jazzeru
Member
jazzeru

nono remember they get a paid day off for christmas shopping!

http://www.state.nj.us/sci/pdf/The%20Beat%20Goes%20On.pdf

In response to plywood who said:
If the fiscal year will be essentially over by the time a budget is approved,isn’t that bookkeeping as opposed to planning? Anyone can write the budget for something that has already occurred – just add up the receipts. This is an ongoing crisis in leadership. Do they start Christmas shopping and budgeting for same on December 24th too?

frustratedtaxpayer
Member
frustratedtaxpayer

And the HPD get up to 5 days off for donating blood, the “salaried” police and fire chiefs bank “overtime” for additional days off, 35 hour work week for civilian employees and zero contribution toward health care costs, etc. Where can I sign up?

In response to jazzeru who said:
nono remember they get a paid day off for christmas shopping!

http://www.state.nj.us/sci/pdf/The%20Beat%20Goes%20On.pdf

Easy-E
Member

If that is true, that’s one of the more rediculous things I have heard.

What does that end up costing per pint? Let’s do a rough estimate… Let’s say you have a cop who makes about $80,000 per year, based on a 5 day work week, 52 weeks per year, it’s $307.69 per day, or 1538.46 for 5 days.

That’s some expensive blood.

Maybe it’s not a good idea to let cops donate if they need days off to recover? Just saying, I don’t get a day off, but I am sitting at a desk, not chasing bad guys. Sounds like a bad idea all the way around to be honest.

In response to frustratedtaxpayer who said:
And the HPD get up to 5 days off for donating blood, the “salaried” police and fire chiefs bank “overtime” for additional days off, 35 hour work week for civilian employees and zero contribution toward health care costs, etc. Where can I sign up?

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