Mayor Zimmer’s 2012, $102.3 million budget (down from $106.7 million) shows once again how far Hoboken’s finances have come under her administration. Our tax levy hit a high of $66 million under Judy Tripodi. This was exacerbated by a onetime $4.2 million fine by the state of NJ for a botched early retirement program that was not vetted by the NJ Division of Local Government Services (NJ DLGS) as required by law. Mayor Zimmer presented her first budget after state reign at a $61.4 million levy.
One year later the levy was reduced to $59 million and a one time shot of $2.85 million (5 percent) was returned to taxpayers. In 2011, the levy declined to $55 million and this year’s will be struck at $53.9 million.
Ignoring the one time shot, the amount of taxes raised by Hoboken has declined by $12.1 million or a whopping 18.33 percent, excluding the onetime 5 percent under Mayor Zimmer.
Last year, only 10 percent of NJ towns had a stable-to-lower levy. Approximately 1/3 of those cut their levy. I doubt that anyone cut as much as Hoboken, making Hoboken one of the top 25 of NJ’s 566 municipalities fiscally speaking. The amount of tax reduction is staggering, and I give Mayor Zimmer and her council majority 100 percent of the success.
Just 4 years ago, our town hit a fiscal crisis and the NJ DLGS oversaw our finances. We were given 7 years to pay off a $10 million deficit. Last year’s budget projected a surplus of $9.5 million. On Dec. 31 it stood at a record $19.5 million.
One area of additional revenue is new development. Legally you are not permitted to claim higher taxes until the project is completed (projects don’t always finish on time). Last year we saw $39.7 million in additional ratables. Of course the levy would have been $4.5 million lower if the fiscally reckless minority had approved the refinancing of the midtown garage. That would have achieved Mayor Zimmer’s promise of a 25 percent tax break, something that Michael Russo constantly harps on, yet his vote prevented it from happening.
For the third time the minority failed to approve a routine transfer of funds. This means that our firemen’s overtime and legal counsels still will not be paid. Once again the fiscal incompetents cannot offer a rational reason, other than they hate Mayor Zimmer for voting no. A transfer involves no new spending. I expect another letter of reprimand from the NJ DLGS.
Progress was also made from the successful completion of union contracts. Going forward, by utilizing the state insurance system and with retirements, fiscal progress was achieved without any layoffs. New revenue from innovative concepts like multi-meters also provided gains.
Mayor Zimmer is asking for a prudent 10 percent budget reserve of $5.6 million for 2012. I urge the administration to contact the rating services, as I believe Hoboken deserves a major credit upgrade from our borderline junk status.