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Hoboken Council approves raises, Division of Housing, and Constituent Services office, with the exception of the Division of Housing and the Constituent Services office

Hoboken Council approves raises, Division of Housing, and Constituent Services office, with the exception of the Division of Housing and the Constituent Services office

At Wednesday's meeting, Hoboken City Council members secured pushes for themselves and potential salary increases for certain city employees.

They also voted to establish a Division of Housing and re-establish one of Mayor Ravi Bhalla's most popular initiatives, the Office of Constituent Services.

The three ordinances were some of the first introduced after Bhalla was re-elected Nov. 2, however only the latter two were mentioned on the campaign trail.

The salary ordinance provided increases for City Council members, increased salary ranges for department heads, and certain city employees, as well as a promised raise for who the next mayor will be.

According to city spokeswoman Marilyn Baer, it was intended to aid the city stay competitive with other governmental agencies while attempting to retain or recruit qualified employees.

Council members Phil Cohen, Jim Doyle, Emily Jabbour, and Michael Russo voted in favor, and Councilmembers Mike DeFusco, Tiffanie Fisher, and Jen Giattino were no votes, Council President Ruben Ramos voted.

Fisher and Giattino had previously asked that Bhalla's administration prioritize raises for union workers. Five of the city's departments are working on expired contracts.

Sheila Brennan, a recent City Council candidate, criticized the time spent discussing public comment.

Brennan said, "I am upset about this since it wasn't brought up during the election," and "not a word. Not a peep, and I can see why because it would have been a political hot potato."

With the new legislation, the mayor elected after Bhalla will earn $130,000, up from $116,950. Most city council members will face a 45 percent increase from $24,130 to $35,000.

The council vice president will have a higher-tiered salary of $37,500, and the council president will pay a raise of $26,541 to $40,000. The council vice president will get a higher-tiered salary of $37,500.

The department director positions, on the other hand, will have higher salary caps: $170,000 rather than $137,500. The business administrator's cap will go up to $199,000 from $162,000. The comptroller, assistant comptroller, chief financial officer, payroll supervisor, and tax collector jobs will also have higher salary caps.

The Division of Housing ordinance passed with all yes votes, but for Falco, who abstained because she has been tapped to lead the new division. The partner Constituent Services ordinance passed with a smaller margin. Giattino and Ramos voted no, and DeFusco and Fisher voted no.

The City Council abolished the Office of Constituent Services early in the coronavirus epidemic while facing a budget deficit, despite Bhalla's opposition.

The office works with residents in direct communication and assistance in navigating government options, which will be reopened next year, according to Bhalla.

When the Office of Constituent Services officially opens next year, I know it will once again assist increase efficiencies and speed in which residents have their concerns and queries addressed, Bhalla stated.

Russo said he is in support of the bill because the city is in a better financial position than when it abolished the office.

During the epidemic, Ramos stated that the city is only in that position because of the federal dollars it has received from economic aid programs.

He said that money goes away in three years.

Two recent City Council candidates who also sit on the rent leveling board criticised the Division of Housing ordinance, saying, "There should have been a more public search for the division head and more done to define the role."

The job has no actual official description, but there was a makeshift description that demonstrates that whoever wrote that description doesn't even comprehend the difference between affordable housing and rent control, Fallick said.

The City Council also passed an ordinance that would establish a referendum on using ranked choice voting in the city if it becomes approved in New Jersey. Five-2-2 also exemptions unions from the city's pay-to-play laws were introduced.

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