Jersey City Council delays vote to provide schools more money from abatements

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With a 7-2 vote, the Jersey City Council tabled a measure that would transfer revenue from long-term tax abatements to the public school district during Wednesday night’s council meeting.

Councilmen Michael Yun and Chris Gadsden voted against tabling the measure.

The vote was initiated by Council President Rolando Lavarro, who surmised that the three new council members, Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley, Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey, and Ward E Councilman James Solomon would have strong opinions on public school funding and pilot funding.

What was discussed in the previous caucus was the effectiveness of the ordinance.

“I think the intention is good. The idea is good. The predecessor of the idea is good. Everyone wants to see the public schools funding [increase], but there were questions regarding the legality of the ordinance to begin with,” said Lavarro.

According to Lavarro, there were questions raised whether or not charter schools would be funded since it wasn’t articulated in the ordinance. Questions on community benefits at the expense of the developer was another standing topic.

” … Whether it was the executive order or this ordinance, most of this was done inside a political atmosphere leading into elections and so it’s not much of a thoughtful policy,” said Lavarro, while promoting students academic excellence being a realistic goal to achieve and recruit funding for Jersey City’s public schools.

Ward D Councilman Michael Yun, who cruised to re-election, and Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden, who lost to Prinz-Arey in last week’s special election, sponsored the ordinance.

Councilmen Richard Boggiano and Gadsden disagreed on Lavarro’s stance on the ordinance being politically driven.

“Back in March, this had nothing to do with a political campaign … Bayonne had went about dedicating 5 percent and then afterwards the mayor came out and said in April he was dedicating 10 percent,” said Gadsden.

On April 5th, Mayor Steven Fulop, through an executive order, said he was dedicating 10 percent of payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) revenue to public schools.

The executive order applied to all future market-rate residential, commercial, and industrial tax abatements.

Additionally, Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne had a fresh perspective on the abatement outside of legality issues, which was a financial impact analysis of the tax abatement on the city.

As an outgoing council member of Ward E, Osborne suggested the economic outcome of the state be analyzed after Governor-elect Phil Murphy, comes into office in January.

“The governor of New Jersey has been talking about taking funds and investing in Jersey City, and Newark, and Hoboken, and spreading those out throughout the entire state, which means less tax incentives for Jersey City,” said Osborne.

“With all of those things at once, I feel like we need to have the financial statement analysis before we could vote on this.”