Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla says that charter schools aren’t impacted by payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) revenues from 770 Jackson St., though 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos completely disagrees and believes this is a case of bait and switch.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“By way of background, in 2016 Mayor Dawn Zimmer entered into a PILOT agreement, as approved by the Hoboken City Council, in connection with the development of a residential building at what is now 770 Jackson Street,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla said in a Nixle alert that went out this afternoon.
“As part of this agreement, the developer agreed to provide $52 million worth of community givebacks, including the resiliency park at 7th and Jackson, a children’s playground, a pedestrian plaza, underground flood infrastructure, 42 units of affordable housing, and a new basketball gymnasium.”
Bhalla continues that under state law, taxes collected from PILOT agreements cannot be given directly to a school district, so a resolution, which he said he introduced as a councilman, was approved to allow the city to allocate a revenue stream to the city’s schools.
According to the mayor, that agreement had no impact on Hoboken’s three charter schools.
“As it pertains to the Hoboken Charter Schools, the PILOT payment has no effect on funding to which the charter schools are entitled. Charter schools are provided a payment each year from the Hoboken Public School District based strictly on a formula established by the State of New Jersey which is unaffected by any previous, current or future PILOT agreements.”
However, Ramos sees it a different way, pointing out that the financial analysis conducted in 2015 explicitly included the 1,000 or so students enrolled in the three charter schools: HoLa Dual Language, Elysian Charter, and Hoboken Charter.
“I’m a public school teacher, my sister’s a Hoboken public school teacher. These kids were included in the financial analysis in 2015 and I want all funding to allocated evenly, otherwise, this whole thing was a fraud,” Ramos told HCV over the phone.
“I supported this PILOT, sponsored by Councilmen Mello and Russo, because it ensured that every child in this district gets taken care of. They included those kids then: they didn’t all of a sudden disappear.”
Ramos noted that he and Russo attempted to introduce similar local legislation in 2007 to no avail, as well as that while his children attend public schools, fair is fair.
“I live and breathe financial inequities by being a public school teacher for the past 23 years. When we went to remote learning, none of our kids had Chromebooks. So I know how every parent feels about their child being shortchanged. We shouldn’t be pitting children against each other, a kid is a kid.”
Officials from Hoboken’s charter schools did not immediately return inquiries seeking comment on Friday.