After months of debate and little progress, the Hoboken City Council agreed on Wednesday on an amendment to balance the $104 million 2013 fiscal budget, which was introduced in March but had yet to be adopted. In a rare show of bipartisanship in Hoboken, Council President Peter Cunningham cross the proverbial aisle and voted with the opponents of Mayor Dawn Zimmer on an amendment to come up the necessary $900,000 for firefighter pensions. Cunningham is a staunch ally of Zimmer.
“We were coming down to really minor differences,” said Cunningham. “It was in the city’s best interest.”
The amendment was introduced by 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti and 1st Ward Councilman Theresa Castellano, political opponents of Mayor Zimmer. On the meeting’s agenda, the amendment followed a similar amendment sponsored by Council Vice President Jen Giattino, the chair of the council’s Finance Committee, but none of Zimmer’s opponents voted for it.
“We were coming down to really minor differences. It was in the city’s best interest.” –- Peter Cunningham
Early in the evening, Cunningham said that the entire budget negotiations resembled a “hostage crisis” due to what he said was an inability to compromise on the part of the mayor’s opponents.
The amendment that passed on Wednesday will cut spending by barring the city from hiring a Director of Economic Development, but also allows for the purchase of a high water vehicle which would be used to rescue residents in the event of another Hurricane Sandy-like disaster.
The amendment also only raised the tax levy – or the total amount to be collected from property owners – around $300, as opposed to Giattino’s amendment, which would have increased it about $205,000. Giattino said the difference between her raise and Occhipinti’s was “a few pennies per day.”
“I am extremely gratified that the City Council came together and finally introduced a budget amendment last night,” said Zimmer in a press release. “I strongly preferred the more balanced approach taken by [Giattino] that would have permitted us to move forward with these important matters this year, but I am pleased that it appears that a final budget will be adopted next week.”
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