Taxes go down, sorta – one half of a percent

Tonight’s City Council meeting was a rather drawn out affair especially considering the limited topics for the special meeting.  The Sinatra Park/Castle Point bonding for $12 million for repairs due to underwater shipworm damage eventually made its way to approval but not without substantial misunderstanding from the public.  Before the professional presentation on the scope of the work, the public spoke and it was clear the lack of clarity surrounding the bonding process and how it is linked to applications for grants went over many people’s heads even when it was later explained several times leading into the vote.

It’s somewhat frustrating to see people argue about the $12 million bonding as if it’s spent money or money guaranteed to be spent.  It’s actually not.  Hoboken will retain the right to bond for the money as necessary, but only after the process of obtaining grants is clarified.  Lennox Consulting, the firm working to identify available grants did not guarantee the results but thinks it can make some headway on the issue.  The payment is $10K in total for that effort over four months. In the hallway, MSV had a chance discussion among some other residents with the gentleman leading the firm but he would not state what could be actually anticipated.  However he did state it would not be anywhere approaching the $12 million thought to be required for the repairs.  If Hoboken can get somewhere near half, we should probably consider ourselves fortunate.

Also of note, Corporation Counsel Michael Kates indicated he would finalize his advisory on the recent $29,000 Condon contract and its potential ethics/pay to play issues by the next City Council meeting.  He made it clear he’s taking the issue very seriously and will be doing a professional examination before issuing his legal opinion on the matter.

Of some significance, MSV had separate conversations with Councilman Mike Russo and Councilman Beth Mason.  The former was a candid discussion on expectations surrounding questions submitted earlier on 2008 campaign contributions and ELEC filings and the Councilman was receptive to a follow up regarding same.  MSV made clear it would extend adequate time before posting questions or additional findings in any follow up story.  To the Councilman’s credit, he showed he is willing to stand up to the accountability he stated all elected officials should be held.  Although Councilman Russo felt he had addressed the questions posed in the last City Council meeting, we’re not altogether clear about that finality and told him so.  Upon completion, a follow up will be posted.

After the Council meeting ended, a discussion with Councilwoman Mason centered on the BoE meeting the previous night and the taping of the session by her videographer.  This will be part of another follow up story.

As thought, absorbing the full inherited $4.2MM pension filing error under the Roberts administration wiped out any significant tax relief for the end of this fiscal year.  It’s being paid out in total as the final months wind down to June 30th.  That decision was signalled earlier by Councilman Mike Lenz who heads the Finance Committee as part of an appeal process to the State but no one really believes this will deliver on its Hail Mary pass.  Councilman Nino Giacchi agreed to go along with the amendment to the budget that will officially lower taxes 0.53%*.  Yes, it’s that small and is really just over half a percent.  Finance Director Nick Trasente making his last appearance before he moves on Friday confirmed the figure.  Councilman Russo noted this budget failed to deliver on a 25% budget cut and he’s correct regardless of the political context and the fiscal state monitor’s role in this budget cycle.  Councilman Giacchi made an artful pitch to follow the fiscal state monitor’s urging to take advantage of the low cost bonding options and pay the $4.2MM over several years but the will of the Council was already set on absorbing the hit and moving on.  And so they have.

Talking Ed Note: Last night’s meeting gave MSV an opportunity to personally thank the efforts of Nick Trasente (above) who moves on to greener pastures after Friday.  Some folks online have commented about his departure in almost a gleeful manner but MSV thinks Nick cleaned up a huge amount of problems in Hoboken’s records most will never know and he was the guy in the trenches dealing with them.  Considering where this town has been with budget land mines planted everywhere over years, Hoboken really owes him some applause. Thanks Nick!

* The half a percent decrease will not offset the taxes increased in the first quarter due to tax appeals won against the City.  The offset to the second quarter ending this fiscal year is not altogether clear.  The burden and challenge to the mayor and City Council to address taxes will really begin in the next fiscal year, beginning July 1.

Related: has now posted a story centered on the Sinatra Field/Castle Point repairs.

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