Ward D Councilman William Gaughan announced that the city's Municipal Utilities Authority, which oversees the city's water supply and sewage system, would receive an extra $4 million dollars in 2004 and another $4 million in 2005 from North Bergen for interlocal sewage services.
Closer to what MUA owes
"We want [the Jersey City MUA] to send us $26 million since they are supposed to pay $30 million for this year," said Council President L. Harvey Smith. "They neglected to tell us about the negotiation with North Bergen."
The Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority, which operates as an autonomous agency, is contracted to pay a fee of $30 million to the city for services rendered. MUA officials have said that this year only $24 million can be paid to the city's coffers because of declining revenues from water services. Gaughan said that since Jersey City MUA could receive $4 million from this deal with North Bergen, then there should be extra money. But he said that the reason that $2 million rather than $4 million would be requested is that he is looking to stabilize the city's tax rate but not drop it considerably. Gaughan further explained that if $4 million were applied to lowering the tax rate, then there would be less to use for the next fiscal year to help balance the budget.
"I want to try to build a surplus for next year," said Gaughan. "The point is that every bit of revenue you have to use is to balance for the next year's budget. It's all about good government."
Taxes could be reduced
The $2 million dollars, Gaughan said, would enable the MUA to pay $26 million dollars instead of $24 million to the city to satisfy the majority of their financial obligations to the city for the 2004 fiscal year. He also said it would save Jersey City residents a theoretical 40 cents per $1,000 worth of property on their tax bill, using the widely accepted rule of thumb that each $5 million added into the budget results in a $1 decrease in the tax rate. This year's municipal tax rate will be determined after the budget is adopted, but as a point of comparison, last year's municipal tax rate was $19.35 per $1,000 worth of property.
Still in the works
Chris Pianese, North Bergen's township administrator, said that the offer to the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority is actually $4 million that would be paid both in 2004 and 2005 to enable North Bergen to divert the flow of sewage through Jersey City to the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission in Newark.
Tom Kane, the director of the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority, said last week that no contract has been finalized between Jersey City and North Bergen.
"Not one shred of contract has been drawn up. We're waiting for Passaic Valley and Department of Environmental Protection to have their meeting," said Kane.
The Jersey City MUA, the township of North Bergen, the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection would have to meet in order for the NJDEP to approve North Bergen diverting their sewage through Jersey City lines. Kane said that North Bergen would have to build a sewage line to hook up with Jersey City's lines going to Passaic Valley, which he estimated would take three years to construct.
The council unanimously approved the $379 million budget, setting up the public hearing on the Budget for Monday, April 5 at 5 pm with the possibility of a final adoption of the budget to occur on the same day.
Other council business
The special council meeting was also held to take care of unfinished legislative business from the regular City Council meeting on March 24.
The council approved an ordinance amending a city statute that does not allow any commercial motor vehicles to be parked on city streets between the hours of 9 pm and 5 am to make an exception for taxicabs and limousines that are licensed with the city by those drivers who are legal Jersey City residents.
There was some debate over the ordinance on the issue of how the new law would take effect as it was pointed out by some on the council that a number of cab and limo drivers who work during the 9 pm-5 am time period are driving vehicles that they may not own, and are probably not residents of the city.
The reason for this amendment was in response to the complaints by cab and limousine drivers in Jersey City who have been subjected to a rash of tickets since the beginning of this year.
A resolution was also approved 7-1 to award a contract to Avis, Hertz and Enterprise Car Companies for the purchase of a total of twelve used cars to be used by the Jersey City Police Department for undercover police work.