The plans, which include a renegotiation of the city’s contract with United Water that could ultimately result in a $50 million system upgrade and a 10-megawatt microgrid that would power the city’s critical buildings as well as pharmacies, supermarkets, and low-income housing in the event of a power outage. Zimmer made the argument that the city’s recently-upgraded credit rating, which she claimed was a result of her administration’s fiscal discipline, will play a crucial role in financing those projects.
“Now that we’ve built this financial foundation, we have to keep moving ahead to make sure that our city is stronger than ever for the future,” she said to the audience at Stevens Institute of Technology. “We cannot rest on our laurels, but instead we must focus ourselves on creating a healthy Hoboken infrastructure that can withstand the increasing challenges of the future.”
Zimmer’s claims of financial discipline also played into a discussion about the city’s annual budget, which will be introduced to the City Council at its meeting Wednesday night. The $107.6 million budget, an increase from last year, includes a slight tax increase, with a tax levy of $51.7 million, a $950,000 increase from 2013. The increase in the tax rate will be less than two percent, Zimmer said.
The increase is mostly due to increased salaries in each of the city’s municipal contracts, all of which were renegotiated in the last year, and rising healthcare costs, Zimmer argued. But she also mentioned her administration’s increased legal spending, an issue her political opponents have criticized. She made reference to a recent $100,000 payout to fight a lawsuit over pier development, arguing that “we must invest in legal representation so we can protect our community and fight for our waterfront.” She did not mention a recent $1 million wrongful termination suit that the city lost, and has also been fighting.
The mayor also discussed Hoboken’s participation in the Rebuild by Design competition, a federally administered contest that will provide up to $4 billion in funding for urban storm resiliency projects around the tri-state area.
Zimmer said that once winter ends and the city’s hundreds of potholes can be filled, her administration will move forward with a series of transportation projects to repave and redesign Washington Street, Observer Highway and a particularly dangerous area of Willow Avenue. She also discussed several ongoing open space projects, including the planning phase of the city’s new Southwest Park and the attempts to acquire two tracts of land on the city’s northwest side for additional parks.
Finally, she argued that the city is beginning to see the practical and financial benefits of anti-crime and clean street initiatives the administration took on in her first term. Crime is at an all-time low, Zimmer said, thanks to the efforts of outgoing Chief of Police Anthony Falco Sr.
And special trash bins, which hold five times the normal capacity and send a text message to city workers when they’re full, are being installed around town.
On a personal note, she said she's trying to eat healthier, and wants the city to be healthy too.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story stated that the city's tax levy would increase by $4.5 million. That figure was calculated using last year's introduced budget, which differed from the final version. Additionally, taxes will rise $1.5 million overall, but nearly one third of that increase stems from a mandatory library tax increase, which is not administered by the city government. – Dean DeChiaro