I know firsthand the importance of holding the line on taxes and making fiscally responsible decisions. Before I became a Councilman, residents were all socked with an 80% municipal tax increase as a result of the reckless and irresponsible financial decisions made by previous mayors and councils. When Mayor Zimmer and I came into office, Hoboken was under state fiscal supervision, and our bond rating was close to junk. We inherited a broken City Hall with a well-earned reputation for cronyism and unprofessional budget practices. Together, we made the tough fiscal decisions, including reorganizing our top-heavy police and fire departments and modernizing and streamlining city services.
And just as we were coming to grips with these challenges, we were faced with the potential closure of our hospital. I served as Council President when we saved our hospital from closing by finding a qualified private buyer, preventing a crippling default that would have left the taxpayers holding a $52 million bag for an ill-advised bond guarantee made in the past.
Today, eight years later, our hospital and its jobs are still here, we have a strong AA+ bond rating, and Hoboken is on a sound long-term fiscal path. During those eight years, I have helped lead the fight to hold the line on city taxes. This year we were able to deliver another cut to city taxes. As Mayor, my plan for holding the line on taxes and ensuring fiscal responsibility is based on my proven, eight-year track record of keeping taxes stable.
The #TeamBhalla plan to hold the line on taxes:
Maintain Rainy-Day Fund: I will ensure that Hoboken maintains an adequate Rainy-Day Fund to handle unanticipated emergencies. A cash surplus will be built into all city budgets at the levels required for prudent financial management.
Consider Fiscal Impacts in Development Decisions: I will make sure that the fiscal impacts of any proposed new development are carefully considered. I believe that commercial development, such as restaurants, shops and other businesses, can not only enhance our quality of life, but can provide more net tax revenue than residential development, which research shows tends to cost more in stepped-up demand for city services and new schools than it yields in property tax dollars.
Fight for Our Fair Share from Hudson County: Hoboken residents pay too much in county taxes and get too little in return. While city taxes have remained stable, the county has socked us with big tax increases. I will enlist my fellow Mayors in insisting that it is time for Hudson County government to tighten its belt. And I will fight to make sure Hoboken gets its fair share of county services for the money that is spent.
Hire Qualified Professional Managers: I know that strong professional managers can keep city government on budget and identify better and more cost-efficient ways of delivering services. I will retain and hire experienced professionals as Department Directors and for key financial positions through a merit-based, open and competitive selection process.
Pursue Alternative Revenues: As a Councilman and co-chair of the Rebuild by Design Community Advisory Group, I helped secure the $230 million, federally funded grant that is paying for the city’s comprehensive Rebuild by Design flood prevention project. As Mayor, I will aggressively seek state, federal and private foundation funding for needed projects, which will not only help fund needed investments in Hoboken’s future — it will relieve upward pressure on city taxes.
Conduct Long-Term Capital Budget Planning: To ensure that needed investments in upgrading infrastructure and other pressing needs are performed cost-effectively and affordably, I will put in place 5-year and 10-year capital plans that seek to take advantage of the lowest possible interest rates. This effort seeks to make maximum use of Hoboken’s new excellent bond rating, which translates directly into lower borrowing costs. By continuing to make fiscally responsible decisions, I will work to maintain and even improve our bond rating.
Modernize City Government: I will continue to modernize city government, employing new technology to deliver city services in ways that are more cost effective and more convenient. We’ll also promote more energy efficient and environmentally friendly municipal buildings and facilities, reducing costs and saving taxpayer dollars.