Hoboken Budget Workshop #4 recap
Budget Meeting: Day 4 Recap
The fourth and final meeting on the proposed FY2008 city budget was scheduled to begin at 7pm last Thursday night, but didn’t get underway until around 11pm thanks to a marathon Special Meeting to sell the Municipal Garage and name a planner for the NJ Transit redevelopment project. Council members were tired, and looking to move things along as quickly as possible. A crowd that was standing room only four hours earlier had dwindled to just a few diehards.
Continue reading the recap after the jump.
Day 4 Budget Hearings (continued)
Council President Theresa Castellano opened the meeting with a suggestion that the council look for enough cuts in the budget to make up for the proposed Open Space Tax. Finance committee chairman Michael Russo then said he would take all of the proposed cuts back to the finance committee, which also includes Councilman-at-large Ruben Ramos and Sixth ward councilman Nino Giacchi.
Ramos once again asked about the cost of the Police Department’s mounted horse patrol. Councilman-at-large Peter Cammarano laid the costs out this way:
- Feed, hay, and bedding for the horses: $24,000 a year
- Rent: $36,000 a year
- Part-time stable helper: $18,720 a year
- Horseshoes, Vets, Supplies: $7000 a year
Cammarano’s Total: $85,720 a year for the Mounted Patrol
Fifth ward councilman Peter Cunningham noted he sent an email to Environmental Services Director Joe Peluso concerning efforts to gain new revenue from recycling fees for the hospitality industry. Fourth ward councilwoman Dawn Zimmer suggested a budget freeze for the next two to three years once this year’s budget is finalized. Zimmer also said Mayor Roberts made “off the record” comments that he knows there are other places to cut the budget, which she described as ridiculous. Russo said the goal is to cut so there is no tax increase, and the council’s suggestions will be sent to the administration, which will then send the plan back to the council, which will ultimately vote on the budget.
Councilwoman-at-large Terry LaBruno noted there will be a Parking and Transportation committee meeting Tuesday at 7:15pm to talk about traffic calming, and the many proposed increases in parking garage and permit fees. There is talk of charging more for each additional car in your household. Sixth ward councilman Nino Giacchi says the lion’s share of the expenses are salaries and wages, and says if retirements don’t cut the budget, layoffs may be necessary.
Second ward councilwoman Beth Mason noted she had just received a letter from the administration concerning their intent to spend the $2.4 million in UDAG grant money being refunded by Applied Development. This money was used to fund a mortgage on affordable housing units at the Hudson Square apartment complex, which Applied is apparently going to sell. Mason said she does not agree with how the Mayor is looking to spend the money. Mason also noted her analysis of the budget showed salary and wages from 2001 to 2008 have gone up 72% since Mayor Roberts took office. That number doesn’t include benefits.
Michael Lenz called the budget review process a sham and a charade. In addition to insulting the council as a whole, Lenz was particularly condescending to Mason and Zimmer, and attempted to resume his shouting match with Russo. Instead, Russo noted Lenz had long called for just the kind of budget meetings the council was holding, adding he thought the former acting CFO is “wishing for a tax increase for political purposes.” This turned into an argument over the budget, with council members LaBruno and Cammarano going at it with Mason and Castellano. Russo then repeated his call to cut all employees who have been added to the payroll in violation of the city’s residency ordinance, and not to let people pull the council into a political debate.
Helen Hirsch spoke out against the proposed docking fees and other additional revenue streams that will ultimately come back and hit the taxpayer. Ms. Hirsch also called on the council to call in the many cellular phones given to city employees. Ann Holtzman noted there are many excess city vehicles around the municipal garage, including a boat and old police and emergency vehicles. Holtzman noted the cars never move, but they remain registered and insured by the city. She said “If these are vehicles we don’t need” they should be eliminated.
Next stop for the City Council: Meeting Wednesday night at 7pm.