The freshly minted Beth Mason/Michael Russo (politricker-in-chief) majority have put forth their fiscal malfeasance and ignorance for all to see. Two years ago, Mayor Roberts presented an illegal, underfunded budget leading to a state takeover. This new alliance including Terry Castellano, Nino Giacchi and Tim Occhipinti failed to pass a 90 day temporary budget required by N.J. state guidelines, needlessly risking the same outcome. One would think that they would be satisfied with keeping the $20 million surplus lie alive.
Our elected officials should know how the budget process operates. Obviously they don’t. Instead, they played a dangerous, childish game. Our auditors had to wait until year end to perform the task of preparing the statement, which is expected to be concluded by February 10th.
A responsible council would then give Mayor Zimmer a short time to plug the numbers in and introduce the budget. NJ law requires a 28 day period for public hearings before a final vote is taken. This is why State guidelines allow for a three month temporary budget covering this process. The budget cannot be passed until the end of March at the earliest. You must budget this period via a 26.25 percent formula based solely on last year’s budget. On the fly, with a handwritten note, Councilman Russo attempted to short circuit state procedures by picking apart and shortening the period. This can’t be done on the fly as he found out. Recently our Congress passed what is known as a “continuing resolution” to keep our federal government in operation, essentially the same process. Maybe Mason/Russo should start watching CSPAN.
Councilman Russo “wants to hold the Mayor’s feet to the fire”. Mayor Zimmer inherited a $60 million municipal levy. When the final figures from the police retirements come in it should be $54.5-55.5 million. The Council of No has opposed the mayor’s cuts at every step. Their only accomplishment was the Housing Authority police transfer saving $570,000. Both sides can take credit for that. This equates to a sustainable, non one-shot 7.25-9 percent cut in the levy. This does not include the $1.83 million surplus returned to taxpayers. Only 60 of 561 N.J. towns had a stable or lower levy last year. The Mayor is responsible for 95 percent and only in Hoboken would the 5 percenters want to hold the 95 percenters feet to the fire.
The council waits for the budget introduction and then they are allowed to be fiscally irresponsible by depleting our surplus, destroying any chance Hoboken has to prudently finance our debt and spending money we don’t have on non-necessary projects designed to buy off constituents. Needed services such as Meals on Wheels and our volunteer ambulance corp were in jeopardy. So were funds for major snow removal or an emergency.
The council did pass a temporary budget that was shortened and we’ll be right back soon with another unnecessary temporary appropriation. There is no reason with a fully funded budget why we should be risking another state takeover.