Mayor Roberts' salary gets lost in the budget

Mayor Roberts' salary gets lost in the budget

June 25, 2007 Jersey Journal

HOBOKEN - What happened to Mayor David Roberts' salary?

Last year, the independently wealthy mayor pledged that henceforth he would forgo most of his six-figure salary, and that the money should be used for city projects he holds dear.

He promised to shed 11 months of his annual $124,000 salary for the 2007 fiscal year and save the proceeds in an operational line item in the budget.

Since then, the Mayor's Office has made donations of around $36,000 - the equivalent of a third of his prorated salary - toward civic projects and events, according to accounts provided to The Jersey Journal.

But as for the rest of it? Though Roberts claims the money was spent on particular projects, it's impossible to be certain - the money that would have been his salary wasn't set aside, but rather was left in the general budget.

Chris Donnelly, a spokesman for the state Department of Community Affairs, wouldn't comment on this situation specifically, but issued a statement saying: "In general, any public employee who wishes to use his/her salary for charitable donations would have to do so on his/her own and could not do so through the municipal budget."

Roberts says his salary was spent on a project engineer for Sybil's Cave, a dinner for Hoboken's champion cheerleaders, a batting cage for a Little League field near Sinatra Drive, and Pentecost in the Park Festival, which is run by Church of Our Lady of Grace.

In April, Roberts announced with much fanfare that he "personally contributed" $5,000 from the "in lieu of salary fund" toward an improvement project that made the Hoboken Public Library wheelchair accessible.

Money was also spent publishing promotional material and advertising the mayor's accomplishments.

Hoboken Public Information Officer Bill Campbell said that a further $20,000 will help pay for the base for a World War II memorial - a project that recently went before the City Council for approval.

But Councilman Michael Russo, who chairs the City Council's Revenue and Finance Committee, says the salary money wasn't necessarily spent on those projects, as it all came out of the general budget.

"The reality is that he is not paying for them, the taxpayers are," Russo said.

Russo said he would rather see the mayor's philanthropy go toward cutting taxes rather than paying for "pet projects."

"As a taxpayer, I would much prefer to cut taxes than to pay for excavating Sybil's Cave," Russo said.

In the future, Roberts said, he will put his salary into a nonprofit foundation he will start, with an appointed board to determine how to dole out the money.

Roberts, who also receives a monthly pension as a former city firefighter, made his wealth in the city's red-hot real estate market. He owns several properties in Hoboken as well as a $2 million home in Ocean County.

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