Missing money in the Hoboken Parking Utility

Missing money in the Hoboken Parking Utility
by Carly Jersey Journal
Saturday April 19, 2008, 11:11 AM

And people wonder why Hoboken has a budget crisis.

Aside from property taxes, parking meter collection is one of Hoboken's biggest revenue sources. But for a two-year period between 2005 and 2007, Hoboken was owed almost $600,000 dollars from a South Jersey company it hired to run its parking meter collection. The city is now looking to collect interest on that money.

In Dec. 2005, Hoboken hired Toms River-based United Textile Fabricators to collect their parking meter coins and return the money to the City. Almost immediately, Hoboken's parking meter revenue dropped. According to an internal audit from the Hoboken Parking Utility, in Nov. 2005, the city made $115,512.82 from the meters; UTF took over the next month and only handed in only $74,470.00.

Under UTF, meter revenue was consistent some months, other times it dropped significantly. For example, in July 2006 UTF handed the city $34,206, down from the over $100,000 the city collected that same month a year before. And in August of 2005, UTF only gave Hoboken $15,975, down markedly from the $123,000 the city made that same month in 2005.

It didn't cost any less to park in Hoboken ($1/hour); Hoboken just wasn't getting its due.

All in all, by October 2007 Hoboken was owed $582,352.39 in money UTF reported that it collected but never transferred over to the city's coffers.

More after the jump!

That $582,352.39 was returned to the city in three bulk payments in Oct-December 2007, said Hoboken Corporation Counsel Steve Kleinman. Kleinman said he believes all the missing money has been returned to the city. However, Hoboken would now like to collect interest from UTF on the late money.

UTF, whose primary business is to make arcade games, was slow in handing over the money, said Kleinman, although they never denied owing Hoboken the cash.

Kleinman said UTF's procedure was flawed: For two years, UTF employees would collect coins from Hoboken parking meters and drive it down to their Toms River headquarters to be counted. They would then deposit that money into a collection account and wire the money to Hoboken's account at Capitol One bank on Washington Street. UTF blamed the frequent delays on their bookkeeping staff and problems with their wire transfers, said Kleinman.

"Over time there was money that should have been in the city's bank account that didn't get in there. And that's troubling," said Kleinman. "But there's no missing money now as far as we can tell."

Calls to UTF were not returned.

When asked why it took the city so long to notice the missing money, Kleinman said he didn't know.

Currently UTF's dealings with the city are undergoing an independent investigation by accounting firm Garbarini and Co. Kleinman would not let Hoboken Now see the results of that investigation because of potential pending litigation between the City and UTF.

When City Hall found out about the missing money in October 2007, they started monitoring UTF, said Kleinman. UTF was no longer was allowed to drive the coins down to Toms River and instead had to deposit the money daily into Hoboken's bank across the street from City Hall. Starting in November 2007, the City withheld payments from UTF to ensure the money would be returned.

Hoboken did not renew its month-to-month contract with UTF at the beginning of this month and are publicly advertising for a new company to collect its parking meter coins.

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