Hoboken Tax Reform Coalition
Where Do our Mayoral & City Council Candidates Stand on the Issues?
The objective of the Hoboken Tax Reform Coalition is to drive a significant reduction in property taxes
without compromising the safety and soundness of Hoboken. We appreciate your taking time to answer the
following questions that will explain your position on issues of importance, as set forth in our mission
statement, to the members of the HTRC and the taxpayers of Hoboken.
1. Objective: Drive a significant reduction in property taxes without compromising the
safety and soundness of Hoboken.
o Question: Do you agree that the annual operating budget for Hoboken should be
o What do you think the appropriate budget for each of the next five years should be?
o Do you have a detailed plan to accomplish this?
My first priority is delivering a budget – and a tax rate -- as low as we can make it
consistent with funding needed city operations, tending to our infrastructure needs,
and avoiding financial gimmicks. If implemented correctly, next year's budget should
be substantially lower than this year's, if only because of the elimination of the $8
Million in Reserve for uncollected taxes, and $15 Million deferred charge resulting
from the late collection of taxes. These charges are non-recurring, and a direct result
of the Administration’s fiscal shenanigans that led to last year’s budget stand-off. But
we need to do more.
No one has seen the long promised fiscal analysis of City operations, and no one
knows what curveballs the state will throw in to get out of its own budget
troubles. Due to these factors, there is no way to honestly predict specific budget
levels over five years. Making false promises about our financial future for political
purposes is what got us into this mess. However, I can share specific ideas on
opportunities to reduce costs and increase revenue.
o If so, what are the significant initiatives you will support to reduce the annual
o What is the timeline to implement the plan?
o Please explain any calculations of savings that may be included in your plan.
For my first year in office, SFY 2010, I will target a 10% reduction across the board in
operating costs, over and above the elimination of the approximately $21 million
in non-recurring appropriations that will happen automatically. This would mean a
budget of no more than $92 million, and about a 25% reduction on average in the
taxes for municipal services paid by Hoboken residents.
I will work to lower taxes further throughout my term by continuing to cut costs as
well as by aggressively seeking to bring in alternative revenues such as federal, state
and private grant funding particularly in the emerging area of green technologies. The
process of evaluating how our government works and how much it costs must be
ongoing. In my administration, it will not be an election year talking point that I
forget about later when fewer people are watching.
Labor costs are the vast majority of our operating budget – approximately 80% - and
need to be addressed from day one. Cutting 10% in labor costs in ongoing operations
will be accomplished through a combination of wage freezes and reductions,
demotions, benefit reductions and co-pays, furloughs, elimination of un-needed
functions, and layoffs.
As mayor, I would also immediately focus on strategies to reduce costs while
maintaining and improving services in areas such as: Sanitation Services, Recreation,
and Senior Services.
Sanitation Services: Hoboken residents pay for the amount of trash that our City
collects. Therefore, the more we reduce our trash levels, the more money it saves the
taxpayer, and the cleaner we keep our City streets. Initiatives I would begin through a
citizen/City partnership to reduce trash levels and promote more recycling would
include: Decrease overlap between in-house employees and outsourcing for services;
Working with the Housing Authority to initiate a recycling program; expanding
recycling in the schools; improve enforcement of recycling through education and new
technology that enables effective ticketing for continuous violations; establish city-
wide recycling program on our streets which could be funded through grant
applications or a public/private partnership agreement. Explore composting
opportunities to significantly reduce trash levels. I would also require businesses to be
responsible for their own trash pickup. No other community provides trash disposal
services to its local businesses, and Hoboken simply cannot afford to do it.
Senior transportation services: Hudson County offers senior transportation services
around the County and into New York City. Hoboken provides similar services for its
seniors. The County has expressed an interest in shared services, and Hoboken should
pursue this opportunity to ensure that we maintain services for our seniors, but also
reduce costs for the taxpayer.
Energy Efficiency: Hoboken pays an estimated $50,000 per month on its energy
costs. Thanks to a grant from the Board of Public Utilities that I advocated strongly
for, Hoboken was awarded a $57,000 grant for a municipal energy audit. Concord
Engineering will conduct this audit over the next several months, and make
recommendations on new technologies and strategies for Hoboken to reduce its energy
consumption. This grant positions Hoboken to receive additional grant money to
implement various solutions. My Administration will aggressively pursue grant
opportunities that can fund energy solutions to reduce taxes and decrease our City’s
Irresponsible development has also seriously impacted the Hoboken taxpayer.
We’ve given developers tax exemptions, claiming that the PILOTs (payments in lieu
of taxes) we received instead were a great deal for Hoboken. In fact, they were yet
another budget gimmick, pushing costs onto the rest of the City and helping lead us to
the fiscal calamity we face today.
Hoboken has been plagued with ill-conceived and poorly implemented redevelopment
projects. We’ve given special zoning to favored developers and added thousands of
units of residential housing, without receiving the community benefits that were used
to justify the deals. In July 2005, Mayor Roberts gave a press conference on what he
called the “future site” of our new community center and public swimming pool.
They were “give backs” – just two of the many benefits the public was told it would
receive as part of the “Northwest Redevelopment Zone.” The community center and
pool were never built, but the condos were.
We need to decide what kind of neighborhoods we want to have, and use
redevelopment only if it’s the best way to achieve our goals, not to maximize the
profits of developers. PILOTs are often “fool’s gold” – they look like something good
for the City, but when you run the real numbers it’s the taxpayers who are fooled. No
PILOT should ever be considered without a complete financial analysis of its long-
term effect both on the City’s revenues, and on the City’s taxpayers.
Hoboken is a great place to live, and despite the economic downturn developers are
eager to start projects in our town. We need to recognize our strength, and work
harder to get the givebacks the community deserves and negotiate deals that support
the Hoboken taxpayer.
o What concessions, if any, will be necessary in the upcoming Police and Fire contracts
in order to achieve the target budgets you propose?
Labor negotiations are the City's best and first chance to get its cost of labor under
control. When I assemble a team to conduct negotiations, fairness, need, and the
City's dire fiscal situation will set the stage. Everything is on the table, and the focus
will be having everyone tighten their belt one notch, rather than placing the burden on
the taxpayers and an unlucky few who might lose their jobs if others are unwilling to
share in the necessary sacrifice. Successful negotiations require trust and
compromise, and neither is improved by negotiating through press releases.
Our City faces tough economic times, and I believe the best way to get through this is
by sharing the hardship. Hoboken taxpayers have sacrificed the most, and we need the
City to share the burden. If municipal workers agree to reduced salaries and plans to
reduce healthcare benefits then we can minimize layoffs.
The City Council should set an example for the rest of the municipal workers.
Unfortunately my proposals for salary reductions and premium co-pays both failed to
pass the Council. These measures could have set the stage for negotiations with the
o What revenue-enhancement opportunities do you see?
Hoboken businesses must pay their fair share, as should we all. Parking fees should be
moved closer to market rates. But in the end we must remember quot;revenue
enhancementsquot; fall on Hobokenites too. There is no magic bullet. We must get
spending under control.
Recreation: Hoboken offers an impressive number of recreational programs for our
children. We need to maintain this type of programming, but look at ways to reduce
costs through participation fees and possible public/private partnerships. Children
from all economic levels should be able to participate, so I would establish a system
for those that cannot pay for it.
If elected, I would immediately commission a committee of concerned residents and
experts to explore opportunities for public/private partnerships to improve Hoboken’s
infrastructure, quality of life for residents and bring revenues for the City. Potential
opportunities include park development, as well as initiatives to improve
transportation, make Hoboken more bike-friendly, and reduce our City’s flooding.
For example, New York City has a public/private partnership agreement with Cemusa
to replace all of New York’s City’s 3,200 bus shelters and 300 newsstands, to add 300
new bus shelters and an unlimited number of newsstands, and to install 37 bike
parking structures and 20 new public toilets. Cemusa was granted the right to sell
advertising space on these street fixtures. In return, it will provide New York City
with $999 million over a 20-year period.
Hoboken can develop these types of opportunities on a smaller scale by positioning
itself as a dynamic and unique community just a ferryboat, bus, or PATH ride away
from New York City. Hoboken’s a town with historic character, as well as an up and
coming trendy place. The opening of the W Hotel should be harnessed to expand
public/private opportunities for our City.
Pilot audit analysis: My Administration would do a complete analysis of all pilot
agreements for the City. A review will ensure that all properties with expired pilots
are immediately assessed as required by law, and returned to the City as taxable
2. Objective: Set standards for smart PILOTs that improve the fiscal condition of Hoboken.
o Question: What are the specific quantifiable criteria that should be used to determine
if a proposed PILOT brings “value-added” to Hoboken?
I would only support a PILOT if:
The Hoboken share of the revenue was negotiated to be guaranteed to meet or
exceed regular taxes in every year of the PILOT's life.
The Hoboken public schools were fully funded as well.
Some substantial benefit (park, rec center, sewer repair, affordable housing for
those in need) is given to Hoboken.
o How do existing PILOTs fare against your standard for evaluating new PILOTs?
None to my knowledge meet that standard.
o Have you conducted any analysis of existing PILOTs to determine whether the terms
of the agreements are being met and whether the City is obtaining the correct
revenue stream based upon the current contracts?
I would commission and complete such an analysis by a competent outside professional,
within 100 days of taking office. As for what I know now, I have heard of several
instances of non-compliance. I would not vote to extend any agreement that did not meet
my standards above.
In light of such analysis, what proposals, if any, do you have for modification
or elimination of existing PILOTs upon expiration or through negotiations?
When PILOTS expire, that should be the end of them. I would be open to renegotiation
if ending them would create great hardship but only if they continue to serve their
intended purpose, and meet the criteria above.
Do you have a plan for transitioning PILOTs when they cannot be legally
Minimizing disruption to those who face real hardship would be a goal, so long as the
above criteria is met. Specific transition options would be included in the commissioned
3. Objective: Remove the taxpayer guarantee to the Hoboken University Medical Center.
o Question: Are you fully informed about the financial status and quality of care of
the hospital? Do you think that Hoboken should continue to own the hospital or do
you think it should be spun off back into a free-standing, not-for-profit institution by
the end of 2009, free of the City bond guarantee or other financial support?
If so, what plan do you have to accomplish this transition?
If not, what is your understanding of the taxpayer exposure in the event that
the hospital should fail? What plan would you put in place to protect the
The hospital lost $11 million last year ($4 million operating loss, plus
necessary accruals for long term capital repairs). The portion of the $52 million
bond that was allocated for operating expenses has been fully used. How do
you see filling the gap if the hospital continues to operate at a loss?
While saving the Hospital is important to Hoboken, there is ample evidence that the City cut a
bad deal when the $52 million bond guarantee was entered into. Poor planning, management
mistakes, bad luck, and a worsening economy have combined to put the City at risk of being
liable on its guarantee. We should work with the hospital board to spin-off the hospital to a
private concern at the earliest opportunity. This includes fully exploring the possibility for the
Hospital to participate in a regionalization plan with another hospital.
However, it is important to remember that the guarantee is a binding legal obligation. The
City cannot simply decide that it does not want to guarantee the debt any longer. This
potential liability will remain unless the bond is fully paid or the bondholders agree to
terminate the guarantee in exchange for some other type of collateral. In today’s economic
environment it is very unlikely that the City’s guarantee can be terminated in the near term.
In the meantime, it is in the best interests of the City and its taxpayers to do everything we can
to help the hospital succeed. I will appoint competent Hospital trustees who will improve
transparency and safeguard to the extent possible the City's interests. That said, under no
circumstances would I support taking any steps that would result in any increase in the City’s
financial exposure if the Hospital were ultimately unable to continue operating.
4. Objective: Force the initiation of a property revaluation, as per current law.
o Question: Do your support the immediate initiation of a revaluation for Hoboken
with a set date for implementation of January 2011?
If so, what specific proposals do you have in this regard?
If not, what is the justification in light of State law mandating identifying
triggers for periodic revaluations?
Given the magnitude of the undertaking, even if the council voted next meeting to hold a
revaluation, it is unrealistic to expect to implement it so soon. I support following the law and
fairly sharing the tax burden, and will promptly take the legally mandated steps to put one into
effect. Until then, and to reduce the dislocation when the revaluation occurs, I urge all
who believe they are currently over assessed to take steps by April 1st, to appeal their
5. Objective: Act as a fiscal watchdog/public advocate for the taxpayers of Hoboken.
o Question: How will you increase fiscal transparency and accountability in
How will you involve the public more in the policy-making process and
Budget workshops and hearings will be instituted and open to the public. These won’t be
like the current system where feedback from the council and citizens are ignored. I will
also set up Mayor's advisory panels for specific topics to take advantage of Hobokenites
who want to help. The budget document that results from extended and inclusive meetings
should act as a working document, which accurately and clearly represents the personnel
and programs the City intends to support throughout the fiscal year.
How will you make City Council meetings more inclusive? Do you believe
that the five minute public comment rule is appropriate?
I will direct the Clerk to make resolutions and other documentation available online and at
the meeting. I will allow the submission of written comments electronically, which will
be made available on the City website. I do believe the 5-minute rule is a fair balance
between's the public's right to speak and the non-speaking public's interest in having the
meeting proceed. Five minutes should provide ample time for a member of the public to
submit information that the Council can review in detail when the Council is not in
session. The 5-minute limit should not apply to budget hearings and special meetings in
which no other business is being considered.
6. Objective: Downsize county government to provide only essential non-duplicative
o Question: What specific duplicative and/or unnecessary county services would you
publicly campaign to close or eliminate?
What services could be regionalized rather than provided separately in every
Hudson County town?
It is ridiculous for the City and the county to perform overlapping functions, yet in OEM, Law
Enforcement, Street Clearing and Repair, Transportation, Planning, Parks, Grants, Records
Retention and other areas this does occur to some extent. Where that overlap occurs, I will
work with the County to try to save Hoboken money by taking better advantage of those
County services. I have a strong working relationship with Hudson County, and am already
making progress on rerouting Paterson Plank Road. I will work closely with the county to
ensure Hoboken gets its fair share of county services and that all possible duplication is
7. Objective: Explore a change in the form of Hoboken government to one which is more
transparent, accountable and responsive.
o Question: Have you considered whether a different form of local government,
authorized under the Faulkner statute would provide more transparency,
accountability, austerity and responsiveness?
If so, what form of government, if any, do you think could better achieve these
goals and why?
Would you support initiating an immediate change to that form of
If not, why not?
I think it is very possible that another form of government might be better for a City of
Hoboken’s size and political environment. Changing a form of government is an extremely
serious step, and we must carefully consider the implications before making such a change. I
would support appointing a commission to study the issue in depth and following the
commission’s recommendation, as is provided for under NJ state law. Still the fact is that the
form of government is far less important than the people selected to fill it. We don't need a
City Manager form of Government to get a competent, qualified City Manager. Under our
current form of government we can hire a competent, qualified City Manager if we have the
political will to do so. If elected, the Business Administrator I appoint will be just such an
individual, with a proven track record of success in running a City.
8. Objective: Increase the Board of Education’s fiscal accountability and measure
improvements in performance.
o Question: How would you make the BoE fiscally accountable to City Hall and the
o Question: How would you benchmark and measure student, teacher and
o Question: Would you support and institute an investigation to determine whether
any unapproved non-Hoboken resident students are enrolled in the Hoboken school
o Question: Would you support consolidation of schools as a means of reducing
Change in our schools will only come if we elect school Board of Education Trustees committed to
good schools and fiscal responsibility. We need to support strong candidates every year in the School
Board elections in April. The quality of our schools is important to the vitality of our community, and
I encourage everyone to vote in the School Board elections in April.
Unfortunately only about 2,000 people voted in the last school board election, compared to 22,000
who voted for president in 2008. Many residents who don’t have children in the system do not
realize how important the school board elections are to them.
The schools affect everyone in Hoboken, not just those with school-aged children. Thirty percent of
our property taxes go to the school board. The quality of our schools significantly impacts both the
value of our properties and our ability to enable young families to remain a part of our community.
Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions.
4th Ward Councilwoman