As reported in our paper and other media this weekend, Hoboken's state fiscal monitor Judy Tripodi has discovered that because City Hall made a mistake with its early retirement program, taxpayers may have to pay $4.2 million extra. Council people Peter Cunningham and Dawn Zimmer reacted to it this weekend by sending statements, and so did potential mayoral or council candidate Scott Delea.
I am outraged and disgusted over this matter. There are many fine people that work very hard in Hoboken City government, but because of the continued failures of few (incompetency and politics), we take one step forward then two steps back. And again, no one accepts accountability? How can this be? We must DEMAND accountability.
We were duped again to thinking these layoffs were approved by the state, but obviously not, and now have to pay again?
In twelve/eighteen months we have seen waste after waste with $1 million in missing parking utility revenue; $2.2 million in parking utility failures and contract negotiations, $8.4 million in failed discussions with Toll Brothers/Maxwell Place; $10 million in overspending in 2008 budget AND now $4.2 million in pension costs due to unapproved retirement plan. This is nearly $25 million in lost opportunity, and no doubt the audit (which is due now) will uncover more.
Stay tuned and ready for action.
Zimmer's statement says:
4th WARD COUNCILWOMAN ON EARLY RETIREMENT FIASCO AND $4.2 MILLION COST TO HOBOKEN TAXPAYER
We recently learned that the Roberts Administration implemented an Early Retirement Program that did not comply with the State's requirements. For reasons that are at this point unclear, Corporation Counsel, Steve Kleinman, and then Business Administrator, Richard England, presented the plan for approval to the City Council without having received the necessary State approvals which would have established the legality of the plan.
As a result, the State has advised us that Hoboken property tax payers are on the hook for another $4.2 million, in addition to the 84 percent tax increase already imposed. Once again, playing fast and loose with fiscal matters has made our budget troubles even worse. The Council must work with the fiscal monitor to ensure that that all the relevant facts are disclosed and that the individuals responsible are held accountable. We must also work with Ms. Tripodi and the State to develop a strategy to spread out this cost. Taxpayers already hit with a huge increase and declining economy cannot bear the brunt of this costly mistake in this year's third and fourth quarter tax periods.
And then, Scott Delea:
This past Thursday, Judy Tripodi, the State-Appointed Fiscal Monitor for the City of Hoboken sent a letter to the Mayor and Council informing them that the State Department of the Treasury, Division of Pensions and Benefits, determined they enacted an unauthorized Early Retirement Incentive (ERI) program which will result in $4,258,807 charge to the City, payable immediately.
Unless the City magically pulls a rabbit out of its hat of financial tricks, the City will further increase taxes on our already overtaxed homeowners. This unauthorized action will cost taxpayers at a time when we can least afford it. If the $4.2 million is raised by increasing taxes, the tax levy for FY09 ending in June will go from $34 million in FY08 to an unfathomable $68.2 million in FY09. This is an outrageous 100% increase in Municipal taxes!
When will the mismanagement, incompetence, or possible criminal actions taken by members of this administration stop? How did the Mayor's office and City Council approve such a measure? How many other "surprises" will bleed our taxpayers of their hard earned money at a time we need it most? Why are we over seven months into our fiscal year and spending approximately $700,000 on salaries and benefits for a Mayor, Council and Fiscal Monitor who only seem to increase taxes? In fact, we were told the 3rd quarter tax bill would have kept taxes at the same inflated level as the previous 1st and 2nd quarters. This was before the news of the Mayor's and Council's latest financial boondoggle.
When will someone be held accountable? Private sector employees lose jobs for less than this. Everyone responsible for this failure should be fired immediately, without pay or "golden parachutes". These elected or appointed officials and employees have already cost the taxpayer millions. It is time to aggressively hold people accountable and "clean house". If criminal actions occurred, everyone involved should be prosecuted. It is time for our elected officials to get serious about running the City as a business instead of their own personal treasure chest for insiders.
Better Communication and Transparency
Why aren't taxpayers being adequately informed of the state of our finances? We deserve better communication and information from City Hall and our elected leaders on the current state of affairs. We do not appreciate these $4.2 million "surprises". You were elected to be caretakers of our money. We deserve to know immediately and directly how this $4.2 million charge will impact our tax rate for the upcoming months and years. And, we deserve full disclosure of all the fiscal mistakes that have occurred.
A Rallying Cry
This situation is yet another wake up call for the citizens of Hoboken. We must continue to demand change, NOW. We must continue to be vigilant, to organize and to demand greater leadership and results from our elected officials. We can and must do better. I strongly encourage residents get involved by attending meetings and joining organized groups at websites such as LowerHobokenTaxes.com and HobokenRevolt.com. Ultimately, the power to change the status quo lies with the voters this upcoming May. Be sure to register to vote, learn about the issues and have your voices heard at the ballot box.