Two notable speeches came from Freeholder candidates Phil Cohen and Perry Belfiore.
Phil Cohen, endorsed by Hoboken's Mayor Zimmer and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop made prepared remarks and urged a solution to the heavy tax impact on Hoboken suggesting a performance audit be done at the county level.
His remarks prepared for deliver follow:
First, I’d like to thank the Freeholders for holding this meeting in Hoboken, something that you did last year as well. I hope this tradition will continue going forward. It’s critically important both to give you an opportunity to directly hear the concerns of your constituents, and to give us, the members of the public, an opportunity to see how their county government works.
When I received my tax bill last year, I noticed, as I’m sure my neighbors did, that the single largest item on my tax bill was my county taxes.
I started asking questions, and I learned that because in the last few years Hoboken’s County taxes have been rising much faster than Hoboken’s municipal or school taxes, Hudson County taxes are now the largest tax burden Hoboken taxpayers face.
I learned that in the last four years, when so many people and government bodies were tightening their belts, Hudson County increased its tax levy by nearly 20%.
Just look at the proposed budget that you are being asked to vote on now. The proposed increase in the county tax levy is, once again, almost 4%. And for Hoboken and Jersey City residents the increased burden will be even higher and more unfair. Rising property values are increasing the proportion of the tax burden borne by Hoboken and Jersey City residents, without seeing an increase in the County services we receive.
In the current budget, it looks like Jersey City’s taxpayers will be required to pay about 7% more in county taxes than they did last year. Hoboken’s taxpayers will be required to pay about 15% more in County taxes than they did last year. But despite being asked to shoulder an ever growing share of the load, we are not receiving more county services in exchange.
I understand that cutting spending is hard – it requires difficult choices. Every year, things cost more than they did the year before, and we must pay for the services we need. Deciding how to allocate resources is also hard, because there are never enough resources to go around.
But just because a job is hard to do, doesn’t mean the job can’t be done.
Hoboken, Jersey City, and many other Hudson County municipalities have taken a close look at their finances, evaluated their needs, eliminated inefficiencies and made the hard decisions necessary to stabilize their taxes. The time has come for Hudson County to do the same.
In order to help the Freeholders with the budget process in future years, I ask that this year’s budget fund two important tasks that need to be performed promptly, with the results made available to the public:
1. An independent performance audit, to assess County operations. A performance audit will provide the information necessary to make sure that staffing levels are appropriate and that county services are being delivered as efficiently as possible; and
2. A study evaluating the distribution of County services among Hudson County’s municipalities. Such a study is necessary to make sure that Hoboken and Jersey City receive their fair share of County services.
We know that Hoboken and Jersey City are forced by the state-imposed equalization formula to bear a disproportionate and ever rising share of County taxes. But we should not continue to be asked to pay more taxes to the County year after year, without receiving more services in return. Again, thank you for coming here to Hoboken and for giving me the opportunity to share my views.
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Perry Belfiore posted a comment he is no longer a candidate for Freeholder clearing the way for Anthony "Stick" Romano in Hoboken writing in a comment:
I am no longer a candidate, Silver my employer insists, but when I was, I proposed an audit of services the County should provide, should we really have a County park System when we in Hoboken are fighting for park space, I also addressed the council demanding suit be brought against thoes cities that should reval. As to the Reval driven $8,000,000.00 County Tax increase the point was equalized value of the entire city, which County Taxes are predicated upon, is expressed sans debt. Therefore just because Hoboken's property has trippled to $11,000,000,000.00 that is not a measure of equity. Many people have taken on huge debt to realize their dreams which coincidentally increases equalized value, and the additional tax will hurt. Post my comments followed a robust conversation on the history of the equalization formula and failed attempts at change.
Hoboken resident Perry Belfiore followed and unleashed a spontaneous verbal volley thrashing the Freeholders for imposing a $60 million tax on Hoboken which he described as out of line and imposing on young homeowners settling in the Mile Square.
Talking Ed Note: Current Freeholder Anthony "Stick" Romano was in attendance with a majority of the nine member board appearing. He's opened up a campaign office on downtown Washington Street and is running for a third term.