JERSEY CITY – Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy presented his 2013 budget to the City Council Monday during the council’s biweekly caucus meeting. The $486 million municipal spending plan currently does not include a tax increase for property owners.
Healy said his administration plans to keep taxes stable this year thanks to increased and unexpected revenue from various sources. The city, for example expects to generate $7 million more in abatement payments this year than in 2012. An audit of tax abated developments that were paying the city less than they owed will generate an additional $3 million this year, while a new vacant property registration program will add another $250,000 to the city’s coffers. The city also expects to get increased revenue from hotel and parking taxes, although Healy did not specify how much, and from the sale of municipal property and taxi medallions.
But Ward E City Councilman and mayoral candidate Steven Fulop, who is running against Healy in May, called the administration’s budget an election year ploy.
“In the last two elections when he was running for mayor, Healy kept taxes flat, only to clobber residents with a massive increase after the election,” Fulop said. “The last time Healy used this smokescreen, people nearly lost their homes. This is just another sad example of Healy putting his own interests ahead of the residents’.”
However, Healy responded that the City Council – whose majority is allied with Fulop – tried to “force” the administration to raise taxes.
“We have a $9 million liability for our retirees that goes back more than two decades. We had an opportunity to fund that over five years [through borrowing] with an interest rate of, I think, 1.2 percent, rather than hit the taxpayers with one bill this year,” said Healy. “The City Council, with Steve Fulop leading the charge, said, ‘No, we don’t want to pay this down in five years. You have to do it in three years.’ We came back two weeks later with another plan that would have paid this off over the course of three years. Then they said, ‘Oh, no, you have to pay it down this year.’ The thrust of that whole initiative was to force me to raise taxes this year by adding $9 million to our city budget that we had no need to add.”
The 2013 municipal budget is scheduled to be introduced to the City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. – E. Assata Wright