Hoboken City Council To Debate $117 Million Budget at Wednesday Meeting

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Hoboken City Council is expected to vote on the city’s $117-million budget Wednesday, along with amendments compiled by lawmakers after months of negotiation, according to city documents released Friday.

hoboken city council budget 2020

The full-year budget, introduced in June by Mayor Ravi Bhalla, has been under review by the Council’s Revenue and Finance Committee for the past 13 weeks. Councilmember Emily Jabbour, the co-chair of the Revenue and Finance Committee, said Wednesday that her committee was expected to meet to finish amendments for the full-year budget.

“This has been a difficult year for purposes of the budget for a number of reasons,” Jabbour said, citing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, pushed back state deadlines, and other budgetary constraints. “I know that the Administration is doing their best to put forward a balanced budget that is responsive to the needs of the community. I am hopeful that my council colleagues can work together to move the budget forward in a timely and responsible way.” Read on to catch up on everything we know about Hoboken’s 2020 budget.

Hoboken City Council Passed a Temporary Budget at $24 Million

Without having approved a full-year budget yet, Hoboken City Council has financed the city for the past three months through temporary budgets, known under state law as “emergency temporary appropriations.”

The Council approved a $24-million temporary budget last meeting, extending funding for all city government departments through September 16. Last week’s temporary budget was the sixth temporary budget approved by the council since June. By approving temporary funding, lawmakers effectively postponed a vote on the full-year budget for a later day, allocating just enough money to cover city expenses through the next Council meeting.

The temporary budget, which passed 6 to 2, had its share of critics. Councilmember Mike Russo, who voted down the temporary budget, said at the meeting, “I’d like to see some discussion and amendments with the budget to save as much money as possible, but we’re getting to a point where that’s going to become more and more difficult because we are funding so much through the emergency temporary appropriations.”

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Councilmember Mike DeFusco, who also voted down the temporary budget, said at the meeting that the Council needs to approve a budget for government accountability. “At the end of the year, the administration is going to do what they’ve always done, which is to say that the council approved {the budget} and that it’s the council’s final authority, so everyone in this body needs to watch out,” DeFusco said. He added that he would continue to vote down the full-year budget until it had no tax increase.

Other lawmakers saw the temporary budget as the city’s best option. Councilmember Phil Cohen, a member of the Finance and Budget Committee and who voted for the temporary budget, said that the Council shares responsibility with the Bhalla administration to adopt a budget. “When we talk about the need to adopt the budget, that’s true,” Cohen said. “But it’s not completely the administration’s responsibility.”

Mayor Bhalla Introduced $117 Million Budget in June

Mayor Ravi Bhalla introduced a $117 million budget to the Council on July 6, with a proposed $62 million tax levy. Bhalla said in a June announcement that his introduced budget “overcomes unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic including significant revenue shortfalls with a balanced budget that maintains community services.”

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A spokesperson for Mayor Bhalla said the impact on taxpayers will be minimal thanks to other fluctuating municipal taxes. Municipal taxes for 2020 are split between county taxes {36% of total municipal tax}, city taxes {33%}, schools {26%}, library {3%}, and open space {2%}.

“Because this year Hoboken’s share of county taxes are decreasing by 6 percent,” the spokesperson said, “the overall tax impact on property owners from the introduced budget would be an increase of 1.4%, which for the average assessed property in Hoboken of $522,000 corresponds to an annual increase of $115.”

Last year’s proposed budget was approved at $118.2 million, with a proposed $56 million tax levy.

The next Hoboken City Council meeting is on Wednesday, September 16.

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Matthew Cunningham covers local stories on LGBTQ life, city council, local business, inequality, and science. Born in Arkansas, Matthew is a student at Stevens Institute of Technology and a proud gay Hoboken resident. When he isn't dashing to a zoning board meeting or interviewing lawmakers, he enjoys exploring restaurants on Washington Street, scootering on Frank Sinatra Drive, and getting a taste of the big city life.