Home Events + News Hoboken City Hall Layoffs + Wednesday’s Council Meeting: What We Know

Hoboken City Hall Layoffs + Wednesday’s Council Meeting: What We Know

by Hoboken Girl Team
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Last Friday, February 28th, 79 notices of potential layoffs were given to employees of City Hall in Hoboken. With a budget deficit of $7 to ~$14 million range {more on that later}, the layoffs appear to be in direct correlation with fiscal woes that Hoboken is facing, and has received much backlash and discussion at Wednesday’s City Hall council meeting. We’ve taken some time to digest the situation post-council meeting, and here’s what we know about the layoff notices and the budget issues that are plaguing the Mile Square.

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Disclaimer: We are primarily focused on lifestyle and local business-supportive content as a platform, but given the breadth of the situation, we are covering this in more detail. You can see all of our latest news stories and lifestyle coverage here.

2020 Budget Issues Surface

In early 2020, it came to light at a City Council meeting that there were some serious deficits in Hoboken’s budget. At this time, the council voted on a series of proposed parking hikes in fees and fines, which were passed 5-4.

The 2020 budget deficit was brought to light by Tiffanie Fisher, 2nd Ward Councilwoman and Parking and Transportation Chair that there was a deficit that was not $7 million, it was almost double that. “It’s potentially closer to $14 million. It’s a giant number,” she said at the meeting at the time.

Other pieces of the situation have also come to the surface, including the fact that City Hall is being sued by its former healthcare provider, UnitedHealthcare, for $60K, according to Hudson County View

Hello Hydration Sidebar

The reasons for this budget deficit, according to City Hall’s spokesperson Vijay Chaudhuri, are due to health care costs rising.

Mayor Bhalla shared in a press release, “This year, we are projecting major increases in healthcare costs for City employees. The premium healthcare plan the majority of City employees utilize faces an increase of approximately $1.5 million from last year. In addition, State pension costs have also increased by approximately $600,000, and previously negotiated union contracts have added another $3.5 million to the projected budget. Combined with a loss of revenue from municipal court, parking, and more, the City is facing a substantial shortfall in 2020.”

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While $7 million is a very big budget deficit to begin with, it appears that ~$14 million may be the actual number. This is due to a nearly $7.5 million increase in spending combined with a $6.5 million decrease in surplus regeneration.

According to the above article on HCV, the mayor’s office disagrees with that assessment though, pointing out that a December 17th memo pegged the exact figure as $7,420,795 and that hasn’t changed.

Fast-forward to this past week, when on February 28th, 79 City Hall employees were given potential layoff notices.

The Layoff Notice

” … This is to notify all employees that for reasons of economy, efficiency or other related reason, it is possible that you will be laid off or demoted from your permanent or probationary positions,” Mayor Bhalla’s Director of Operations Jason Freeman wrote in the letter that went out to workers.

“This layoff will be effective at the close of the working day on May 7, 2020. This notification provides you with the minimum 45 day layoff notice required by the above law,” continuing that the notice will expire after 120 days unless the head of the New Jersey Civil Service Commission takes further action.

The employees who received notices, all of whom are hourly workers, are the first lines of contact when people call City Hall, said Anthony Ricciardi, president of the Hoboken Municipal Supervisors Association.

“It’s very upsetting and overwhelming to people. Even though I’m the union president, I received a personal letter as well. The administration was pretty much silent [on Friday] and they seem to be disinterested in hearing from our union,” Hoboken Municipal Employees Association President Diane Nieves told Hudson County View.

“None of their part-time workers are included on this list, it only seems to be workers that have been here for many years: they targeted people, particularly more women than men,” she noted, including that every single employee at the Rent Leveling and Stabilization Office received a layoff notice.

City Spokesperson Vijay Chaudhuri shared a statement as well, calling the notices “a precaution” before the new budget is introduced later this month.“Layoffs are a worst-case scenario, and Mayor Bhalla and his administration continue to work around the clock to produce a budget with the City Council that reduces costs and keeps Hoboken fiscally sound for the long-term,” Chaudhuri said. The notice states that any layoffs that occur would become effective after May 7th, 2020.

As the City works to handle this budget shortcoming, some of its financial practices are beginning to be looked at more closely.

In fact, a recent report called “The Beat Goes On and On” and detailed here in our news roundup, both Hoboken and Jersey City were named in a state investigation of financial abuse. It alleges that these 16 cities and towns, including the Mile Square, allowed employees to take their birthdays as “paid days off.” Hoboken is also mentioned in the report as allowing employees a paid day off for blood donations, being in a wedding party or bar mitzvah. More info can be found in the direct report here.

Updated 3/7 with info from City Hall, as the “outdated” contracts have been updated:

The most recent versions of the city’s contracts with municipal unions do not have a provision allowing for paid days off for workers who donate blood, attend weddings or other activities cited in the SCI report.

According to Police Chief Ferrante, that in the most recent union contract, police receive one day off for blood donations, updated from multiple days in previous contracts.

According to Fire Chief Crimmins, the references to days off for those types of events were eliminated in both the most recent Fire Fighter and Fire Officer union contracts.

The City Council Meeting on 3/5

As you can imagine, City Hall employees were quite upset receiving the news of a potential layoff situation.

We shared the Hoboken City Council live stream on our Facebook page the evening it took place {spoiler: it’s 3.5 hours long, so watch at your own risk}, but here are some highlights and occurrences:

  • – 79 City employees affected {and then some} went to City Hall to speak, most wearing red to show solidarity.
  • – City employees shared their grievances, upset, and frustration with the manner in which the potential layoff notices were distributed.
  • – Quotes like “Nobody knew this was coming? Surprise, surprise” from a city worker, and notes of concern about how the City is currently overspending, saying, “Overtime, overtime, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Is this needed?” was a common theme, as were other concerns about take-home pay and targeting of female employees as the core layoff personnel focus.
  • – Another went on to share how it would affect her family. “I’m 6th generation Hoboken resident, and if you lay me off, my family will have to move.”
  • – Anthony Ricciardi, President of the Hoboken Municipal Supervisors Association pleaded to the Council as well, saying, “You can see how everyone is emotional. Everyone is taking this to heart.” He went on to say, “I’m telling you right now, all of them are good people. I’d back every one of them up. The main thing is — they’re all good people. They all love this city and love to work for this city. I’m here for 21 years, and I back them all. The numbers can be done, we can do this together – let’s get this done, no layoffs, working together. That’s all I have to say.”
  • – As you will see in the video below, there are a plethora of people that spoke at the meeting.

You can watch the full live stream recording here.

Others’ Reactions to the Situation

Mayor Bhalla and his alliances seem to feel this is a “potential” worst-case-scenario situation, with the mayor releasing a statement as such.“I sincerely thank the employees who made their voices heard last night. I hear them loud and clear, and value the work they do for Hoboken on a daily basis. Layoffs are a worst-case scenario, and my administration is doing everything possible to mitigate this potential through continued negotiations with the six municipal unions and other cost-saving measures.”

He also said in a press release, “My highest priority is to the taxpayers of Hoboken, and I will continue to explore each and every measure to produce a balanced budget that does not jeopardize the fiscal health of the City. Unfortunately, that may involve some difficult decisions, including the possibility of layoffs. Know that I fully value the contributions of each and every employee in City Hall, and I don’t take this potential outcome, which is a worst-case scenario, lightly. But by working together and finding concessions with our unions, exploring additional cost-saving measures within City Hall, and more, I hope we can produce a budget that minimizes this potential while preventing a large tax increase. Our ultimate goal is to balance the budget this year, and ensure that the City is on sound financial footing for years to come.

Still, many others are more concerned that this may come to fruition.

First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco expressed his views on the budget issues in a letter to Hudson County View which was additionally sent as a press release to HobokenGirl.com. In the letter, DeFusco said, “Instead of identifying ways to cut down on his own spending, the administration’s solution is to eliminate the very jobs of people who keep our streets clean, protect tenants’ rights and keep us safe in emergency situations.”

In comments to Hudson County View, Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said, “There are inconsistencies in the mayor’s statement vs. what I have observed over the past few months, which is a finance team guided by sound fiscal principles and an inexperienced mayor’s office driven by concerns about the potential negative headlines surrounding this budget mess.”

Councilman Michael Russo also said City Hall would be “absolutely decimated” if there were to be mass layoffs, according to NJ.com. “Morale is horrible,” he said to the news site. “Everyone is scared about what the outcomes may be here. It’s a scary thing to know you have a job and then all of a sudden you’re potentially not going to have that job. How do you feed your family? How do you pay your rent? How do you pay your mortgage?”

Freeholder Anthony Romano shared his thoughts directly at the Council meeting, “Every one of these workers is important to the City of Hoboken. You and this administration have a chance to do what should have been in the past,” he said. “We have to compromise and save these jobs.”

The City of Hoboken employs about 560 people in total. We’ll update this story as more info comes to light.

In the meantime, here are a few other articles about the situation from local media outlets about the meeting:

Hoboken Workers Turn Out for Council Meeting in Droves via Patch

Hoboken employees put Bhalla admin on blast before council pushes for new insurance plan  via Hudson County View

Furious Municipal Employees and Longtime Residents Pack Hoboken City Council Meeting to Protest Potential Layoffs  via hMag

Hoboken workers pack council meeting in show of unity after receiving layoff notices  via NJ.com

Have an update or addition to this story?  Our team works hard to keep you informed, but we appreciate news tips.

Please email [email protected] with any info.

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