HOBOKEN -- Hoboken introduced its proposed $98 million budget Wednesday night, but there were other issues discussed, such as a proposed 9/11 memorial that originally was to cost $4 million. The project was suspended when Hoboken realized what deep financial problems it has. But now it's back at a lower cost.
The meeting will be covered in this weekend's Hoboken Reporter, but read on for 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason's recap:
I am writing to you today with a recap of last night’s City Council meeting. It was a busy meeting and City Council Chambers was standing room only as the 2010 budget was introduced for the first time.
Last night Hoboken Finance Director Nick Trasente introduced a $98.7 million dollar budget for 2010. Please be advised this budget was just introduced, it was not adopted.
Although the City Council voted unanimously for the introduction of the budget, I believe that this budget needs a lot of work before it can be passed. Hoboken’s taxpayers want and deserve serious tax relief and I look forward to working with my City Council colleagues to ease this tax burden.
What I would like to see addressed in the budget is the following:
• Mr. Trasente said the budget does not include estimates for increased costs for salaries and wage, health benefits, and pensions. We must plan for this, otherwise the budget will once again be overspent
• There are no provisions for emergency expenses. This year the pier on Frank Sinatra Park collapsed, but no money was earmarked for the cost of repairs. This budget has to plan for the future, so we do not continue to make past mistakes.
• At last night’s meeting the City Council approved refunding several dozen tax appeals. The real estate market could get even worse next year and cause even more tax appeals. There must be a plan in the 2010 budget to deal with this issue.
• Over the past few weeks we have discovered that Hoboken University Medical Center is in serious financial jeopardy. After losing $22 million last year, it is expected to lose another $11 million this year. At the last Hospital Authority meeting, board members confirmed that should the hospital close the taxpayers are responsible for paying back the $65 million in bonds and for continuing to pay salaries and wages, healthcare, and pensions for the remainder of the union contract, even without the hospital operating. This could financially cripple Hoboken. The past administration believed if they ignored problems they would simply go away, but we have learned the hard way that nothing is further from the truth. We must address this issue while discussing the 2010 budget.
Unfortunately, members of the public could not speak about the budget during last night’s council meeting. This is due to state guidelines that require the City Council to review the budget before residents can speak on it. You will have the opportunity to speak about the budget at the January 6th City Council meeting. I am looking forward to your feedback, input, and suggestions.
September 11th Memorial
The City Council also voted unanimously to continue building Hoboken’s September 11th Memorial. There will be a $58,000 engineering cost, which will be covered by a $200,000 grant we received from the state.
Going forward the City Council will discuss the final location of the memorial, as well as the final cost once our budget is adopted.
New Fire Engine
A new fire engine is on the way for the City of Hoboken. This new engine will replace one that is 22 years old. Our City is constantly growing. We have senior citizens, families, single residents, and even a large pet population.
The Hoboken Fire Department needs reliable and modern equipment so they can respond quickly and efficiently to insure the safety of our residents.
There was a resolution for temporary appropriations last night that was tabled by the City Council. At the next Council Meeting we will discuss whether all of the items included in the Temporary Appropriations are necessary. It is important to watch every single cent in order to ensure much needed tax cuts are a realistic option.
SCI report on perks employee perks (also see this weekend's Reporter for more
A report released by the State Commission of Investigations citied Hoboken for fiscal waste:
• From 2004 to 2009, retiring Hoboken employees collected $3.87 million worth of terminal leave, including individual payments as high as $97,000 and $3.14 million in accumulated vacation leave. In numerous individual instances, the combined lump-sum payout was identical to or within several thousands of dollars of the recipient's last annual salary.
• Following the infamous SWAT team scandal, Hoboken's former police chief, Carmen LaBruno, received a retirement package of $350,000 -- $125,000 in accrued unused vacation leave, $150,000 in terminal leave and $75,000 in unused accumulated compensatory time. LaBruno's final salary as Police Chief was $210,794.
• Hoboken police and fire personnel, in addition to lump-sum leave redemptions, are entitled by contract to cash stipends at retirement -- $2,000 for rank and-file police officers who retire with less than 28 years of service and $2,000 for firefighters with less than 30 years. Police superiors receive the $2,000 stipend if they retire on Jan. 1 of any given year, plus $240 if they are members of the Superior Officers Association.
• Also, uniformed and civilian employees in Hoboken routinely receive longevity raises ranging from 2 percent to as much as 18 percent per year on top of regular salary adjustments. Depending on the employee group, they also qualify variously for a mix of special leave benefits, including days off as an incentive for not taking sick leave, time off for donating blood and personal days off for private events, such as weddings and baptisms.
• Hoboken employees, depending on the bargaining unit to which they belong, receive annual payments of between $700 and $1,500 for perfect attendance.
I have long been a critic of this wasteful spending and believe that it is imperative for Hoboken’s Elected Officials to stand up for our taxpayers. In order to provide serious tax relief we must stop the failed policies of the past and become champions of fiscal responsibility.