Fulop previews 2015 budget, draws contrast with Christie

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Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop is playing up his administration’s “smart and responsible fiscal planning” the day before his scheduled state of the city address, previewing a 2015 budget proposal that includes no tax increase and that show’s the city tax base growing for the second consecutive year.

“We are changing the way the municipal budget is developed, using a multi-year forecast and not relying on one shot revenue deals,” said Fulop in a statement.  “We delivered a tax cut last year and kept taxes stable this year, while hiring more police officers and firefighters, investing in our parks and increasing recreational programming.  We are being smart and responsible with our taxpayer dollars and are planning for the future.”

The announcement notes that he tax base, or ratable base, grew in Jersey City by $57 million in 2015, following a 13 percent tax decrease in 2014 — a “rare accomplishment for cities in New Jersey” — as part of the first Fulop administration budget.  In 2014, the tax base grew by $118 million, with Jersey City now having the largest municipal tax base in the state.

The growth in ratables corresponds with some of the highest construction activity in the Jersey City’s history, the release added, with 6,000 units under construction and another 18,000 approved.

A potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2017, Fulop is set to give the second annual economic address tomorrow and present his proposed budget to Jersey City’s council. Coincidentally, it also falls on the same day Republican Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to deliver his own budget address in Trenton, one that is likely to come with similar vows to lower or keep level taxes.

Observers note that Fulop benefits from using his own address to draw a stark contrast between Christie, under whose administration economic and fiscal growth in New Jersey has lagged somewhat behind the national average.

One of the biggest topics Christie is expected to address is ongoing pension and benefit reform, a major issue for the Republican presidential hopeful. Christie has recommended slashing public benefits to plug a gaping budget shortfall, drawing the ire of state employees. His budget tomorrow is likely to focus heavily on the subject.

Fulop, for his part, said his new budget will include more than $1 million in cost savings from municipal pension changes his administration sought through the state legislature.

“Our pledge was to consolidate services and cut pension costs, and while it took time, we were able to achieve that goal,” said Fulop. “By working with our legislators in Trenton and state government, we adopted important changes that combined will save us $2 million or more annually.”

Also in the mayor’s new budget, according to the release:
  • Property tax ratables increased by approximately $57 million
  • Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) revenue increased by $4 million
  • PILOT revenue increased by $6 million
  • Land sales in the amount of $7.1 million
  • Construction permits increased by $1 million
  • Parking Authority Consolidation saved $1 million (annual)
  • Municipal pension changes we sought through state legislature saved $1 million (annual)

“It only makes sense that you want to know what future liabilities are ahead of you in the coming years as you budget for this year,”  Fulop added. “This corporate sector practice is one rarely if ever used by governments, but it is one that works and we believe it can be a model for cities across the country.”

City council members seem to be on board, with Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro, Jr. lauding the city’s progress in recent months.

“With increased ratables and streamlined services, Jersey City is moving toward long-term fiscal stability,” Lavarro said. “The Council will continue to work with the Mayor to keep taxes stable and enhance our residents’ quality of life.”
Fulop previews 2015 budget, draws contrast with Christie