City Hall Shutdown, Can it Happen Again?

How ironic...  Almost three years to the day that Hoboken City Government "closed down" back in March, 2005, Hoboken Mayor David Roberts and the City Council are once again battling over the City budget. 

And even more remarkable is that the City finds itself with another budget funding shortfall and must rely upon a cash advance (LOAN) on the sale of the Municipal garage complex.  

Thus far, budget years FY2005, FY2006, and FY2007 have all relied upon cash advances from the sale of the Municipal garage and “budget magic” to balance the City’s budget.  This past November, the Roberts Administration introduced the FY2008 budget.  The $ 87M spending plan relied upon a $ 4M cash advance from the sale of the garage and the potential for a 2.5% tax increase.

After four Special City Council Budget Hearings and additional discussions at scheduled Council Meetings, the Council’s REVENUE AND FINANCE COMMITTEE chaired by Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo provided the Administration with recommendations to lower the budget and do away with the tax increase.

The Administration’s response arrived in the form of an AMENDED FY2008 BUDGET.   Small accolades for negating the TAX INCREASE, but the new spending plan INCREASED from $ 87M to $ 93M and relied upon an INCREASE in the cash advance loan from the Municipal Garage sale from $ 4M to $ 7M. 

City Hall Shutdown:

Can it happen again?  Consider this….  The May 2009 Mayoral race is on the horizon and several sitting Council members have expressed an interest to be wannabe contenders.   Throw into the mix strong rumors that Mayor Roberts is contemplating a reelection bid and you have an explosive political mixture. 

How does the Administration defend the FY2008 AMENDED BUDGET?  The budget INCREASED from $ 78M in FY2007 to $ 94M in FY2008, a $ 16M INCREASE.   How does the City Council explain 8 months of emergency appropriations without benefit of an enacted fiscal year budget?  There is more than enough blame to share between both the Administration and City Council. 

Fourth Ward Councilwomen Dawn Zimmer summed it up nicely at the March 19, 2008 City Council meeting when she said “the train has left the station.”   In all probability ZIMMER is correct considering that 75% of the budget year has passed and funding has already been consumed, all based on monthly emergency appropriations.   Budget cuts for the remaining three months will have little effect on remaining contracts, allocated funding, and expended line items. 

And...  It seems as though almost everyone is ignoring the Superior Court lawsuit initiated by unsuccessful Developer MDK Development LLC and a private citizen that attempts to overturn the Municipal Garage sale on bidding irregularities.  If the suit is successful and the garage sale overturned, expect to see a serious budgetary meltdown along with a few Mayoral aspirations come crashing to a squelching halt.

As for the three freshman Council members, MASON, ZIMMER and CUNNINGHAM.  Each have their own style of "command presence" but that will be a topic for another day.

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