Fill the police budget gap with plans that work for everyone
Jun 16, 2013 | 2816 views | 1 1 comments | 143 143 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

So how are we going to balance our budget, thanks to the $5 million we owe retiring police administrators? There are a lot of good ideas, if we’re willing to do them, and stop with the failed policies of the past. How about we don’t replace half of them? The Police Department is woefully top heavy. We need more cops on the beat, not cops on their seat. As for caps on unused sick leave and vacation days, I want public servants to be rewarded for working hard, and not taking days off, but the economy in Jersey City is in dire straits, and that means we all have to give a little.

Another source of immediate income can be found by stopping the renegotiation down of tax abatements. Sure, with the economy in a downturn, these properties are having a tough time finding tenants or selling their condos. But they took a risk building here, so why should the rest of us pay the price? They are not too big to fail! If necessary, the city can buy the property and provide the low income housing so desperately needed in Ward E. Look, I have no problem with responsible development. 20 years ago, the waterfront was a wasted resource. But overbuilding and poor negotiation of abatements has ravaged the entire city. Maybe it’s time to renegotiate tax abatements up. Finally let’s look at some longer term sources.

First, the EPA has required the JCMUA to perform $52 million in upgrades to reduce storm water overflow. Every heavy rain storm we dump raw sewage into the Hudson. Who should pay for this? I think those properties that do not manage their storm water should pay more than those that do. So let’s separate it out from current tax rates. Second, good building energy management reduces the municipal budget, too. The city has done an energy assessment of all municipal buildings. Let’s get moving and take action. These renovations can be financed through the utility savings so they are budget neutral for 10 years, and then start generating money. There is an acronym for this, of course, called ESIPs (Energy Savings Improvement Programs). And improving policies to encourage all building owners to reduce energy use, or use renewables like solar or wind power will reduce the number of wires and pipes below our streets, improve air quality and raise the general quality of life in Jersey City. So let’s get a move on and create a budget that works for everyone.

Andy Velwest

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June 18, 2013
I believe Mayor-elect Fulop and the new City Council will be a more transparent and responsible partner in managing the City's finances; it's one of the reasons the electorate voted them in. It's also the case that fiscal challenges will be part of the job given the convoluted nature of state-city 'take away' 'give backs' and economic challenges that exacerbate visionary teams hoping to make the City a better place to live and work. We just all have to work harder together to come up with new and creative ways to fund needed services, invest in future- focused infrastructure and generate more economic development opportunities aka REVENUE. The default option can not, should not be to simply raise residential property taxes.

Agree that the tax abatement system in the City is flawed and should be restructured, potentially providing opportunities to immediately redirect revenue more appropriately (most diplomatic frame I can come up with) and while there are numerous ways to re-invent how the budget process is re-invented - and am confident it will be - there are opportunities to bring down the overall maintenance costs of the City by investing in overtime implementation of an ESIP and other sustainability / resilience strategies such as more Green Infrastructure in Jersey City, which has MULTIPLE BENEFITS, including lowering the cost of the $52M tab of remediating our sewer system.

Other cities have reduced the cost of this type of remediation by an average of 50% (YES with some results reflecting 70% cost savings) by deploying more Green Infrastructure - proven strategies that are on record. More trees with smarter tree pit technologies, buildings with green roofs and other stormwater capture systems, network of rain gardens, more built up park landscapes and turning other open space into greener corriders within the City - creates more jobs by the way; the list goes on with handful of references to these opportunities available on SJC's RESOURCE page

While you're there, check out all the City's Green Ordinance & Policy links we've listed which don't - good start but as far as I can tell they are not being enforced and don't offer any cohesive roadmap for implemention in line with Budget and Investment focus of the City.

Can we use a $26M savings in what the MUA chooses to execute to bridge the budget shortfall and invest in the future of Jersey City? Seems reasonable.

Lastly, new financing vehicles, including new investment partnerships, that would generate multiple wins for the City; one example is Green Bonds. Let's not forget to explore innovation on all fronts while we are trying to solve these complicated problems.