State takes over Hoboken's finances

State takes over Hoboken's finances

September 10, 2008, Star Ledger

The state Local Finance Board voted unanimously today to take control of the fiscal affairs of the deficit-ridden Hoboken government where the mayor and council have been entangled in political bickering for the past year and have failed to act on a new budget.

The government will be under the strict supervision of the state Division of Local Government Services for one year and while Mayor David Roberts and the city council will continue to have the power to vote on municipal issues, Susan Jacobucci, the division director, said she will have final approval on all decisions involving fiscal matters, union contracts and the hiring and firing of employees.

"In my opinion, there is no reason why Hoboken should be here today,'' Jacobucci told Roberts and three council members. "Hoboken is and should be a vibrant city. This is because of the inaction of local officials. To come to this point today it is a sad state of affairs for a city like Hoboken not to pass a budget.''

The Division of Local Government Services had the power to step into the city's government affairs when the mayor and council failed to pass a budget by the June 30 deadline. Roberts introduced a $92 million budget with a proposal to reduce a $10.5 million deficit over a three-year period but he has only one supporter on the nine-member council and the panel has refused to act. Roberts wants to layoff or demote 67 employees.

Jacobucci told the officials her division will oversee the preparation and passage of the delayed budget and the 2008-098 budget, decide if bonds should be issued, review the professional ability of department heads, set the hours and roles for the 524 municipal employees, oversee tax collections and the issuance of all contracts over $4,500.

After the board meeting in Trenton, Roberts said he welcomes the state oversight. "It was absolutely clear politics brought us here,'' he said.

Weehawken Mayor Richard F. Turner, a longtime board member, told the Hoboken officials, "There is no way to totally restructure a municipality in one year. The first priority is to clean up the mess left over from this budget year.''

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