At least 79 Hoboken Municipal Workers have reportedly received notice of impending layoffs, effective May 7.
Hudson County View is reporting that a letter was sent out over the weekend from Hoboken Director of Operations Jason Freeman, indicating to recipients that “for reasons of economy, efficiency or other related reason, it is possible that you will be laid off or demoted from your permanent or probationary positions.”
The letter goes on to state that layoffs will be effective as of May 7, 2020—thereby giving sufficient legal notice to recipients of the pending layoff.
When asked for comment, Hoboken City Spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri issued the same statement to hMAG as he did to our friends at Hudson County View.
“Unfortunately, fixed costs including rising health care, pension and previously negotiated union contracts have created a number of challenges for the City for the upcoming budget,” he said.
There is currently no word on how many of those employees notified will actually be laid off. Says Chaudhuri, “Layoffs are a worst case scenario and every effort will be made over the coming weeks to produce a budget with the City Council that reduces costs and keeps Hoboken fiscally sound for the long-term.”
hMAG asked the City Spokesman specifically if Mayor Ravi Bhalla had any comments on the impending layoffs. Since our February 10 story outlining the magnitude of the fiscal challenges facing the City, the Mayor has yet to make any statement himself—nor did he do so today.
The Hudson County Clerk’s Office would like to introduce the Mayor of the City of Hoboken ~ Mayor Ravinder S. Bhalla pic.twitter.com/ROyd9ylz8F
— E. Junior Maldonado (@countyclerkhc) March 2, 2020
Hoboken’s budget woes appear to be significantly larger than originally thought, as a nearly $7.5 million increase in expenditures is met by a projected decrease in the municipal surplus regeneration for 2019 by what could be as high as $6.5 million. When added together, those numbers represent quite a hole for Hoboken to fill as they prepare to work on the 2020 budget.
These numbers came to light at the City Council meeting on February 5, when representatives began debating a series of proposed hikes in parking fees and fines, all of which were passed 5-4. During the exchanges, Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher made it known that she was supporting the initiative because, “the city does very specifically rely on parking revenue to balance its annual budget. And what we’re seeing this year is, it’s not a $7 million deficit, it’s potentially closer to $14 million. It’s a giant number.”
The City has been reticent about the actual numbers involved in the surplus, but have acknowledged the increased costs facing the municipal operations budget.
In a December 17, 2019 memo obtained by hMAG to Mayor Ravi Bhalla from the City’s Business Administrator Stephen Marks, the outlook for Hoboken’s financial position is outlined—highlighting a combination of healthcare costs ($1,513,450), elevated pension costs ($578,345), and anticipated annual salary increases in the face of collective bargaining negotiations with the City’s six municipal labor unions ($3,200,000).
Those increases are being met by anticipated revenue shortfalls on court fines, investments, debt service increase (bond repayments), departmental budget increases, higher waste disposal fees, and an increase in New Jersey’s Joint Insurance Fund premiums.
According to Marks, “The grand total for anticipated increases for personnel costs and other expenses is $7,420,795,” adding “which does not include the impact of the projected decrease in the municipal surplus regeneration.”
Marks has since vacated his position as Hoboken’s Business Administrator, taking a similar job in Kearny, where he resides.
Hoboken’s next City Council meeting is this Wednesday—March 4th, at 7 p.m.