Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said that the board of education elections should be moved to April so residents can have a say on their budget as he explained the latest tax bill that comes with an increase.
“The reality is that they’ve [the BOE] increased taxes every single year without a road map of what they’re gonna do or what they’re planning to do next year or the following year: it’s very frustrating,” Fulop said in an interview at a fundraiser for the Fund for Quality Leadership at Surf City last night.
“And we’re here to help and we want to see a successful school system and we also want to see some accountability and some increase in betterment of student outcomes. Those are the things we’re advocating for and we’re going to continue to do it and … if they find a way that we can be supportive, we’re happy to do it.”
This year’s preliminary $695 million budge comes with about a $1,030 tax increase per household assessed at $470,000, compared to a $967 tax decrease last year.
Every resident’s tax bill takes into account the city, county, and BOE budgets. This year, the public schools approved a roughly $973 million budget with an annual tax increase of $1,608 on a home evaluated at $460,000.
When asked if the current tax bill on the municipal level was equivalent to having a free gym membership last year then being charged double this year, Fulop said that is not the case here.
” … In 2020, you paid $100, in 2021 we gave you a discount, that’s accurate – to help overall in your finances and communicated to you saying this is a one time situation – and then we’ve gone back to what the rate was prior,” Fulop said.
“We were very, very clear last year that we were doing this to give breathing room and time to the board of education so that they could better work out their finances – either last year, this year, or a plan for next year – they’ve done none of that. And the scary thing is they still don’t have a plan on what they’re looking to do next year.”
He continued that the BOE is responsible for about 40 percent of this tax bill, greater than both the city and the county.
Just under a year ago, Fulop sat down with local press, including HCV, for about an hour at Hudson Media Group for an episode of “Meeting with the Mayor.”
At the time, he indicated he’d like to see the school board elections moved to April so that taxpayers can vote on the budget, as they do in areas such as Weehawken, North Bergen, and West New York.
Yesterday, Fulop reiterated that he still feels this is the best case scenario.
“I still believe that is the best outcome. I think that when we moved it to November, it was a mistake: we thought you would increase voter turnout and ultimately increase accountability because you have increased voter turnout,” he explained.
“Nobody would’ve foreshadowed that you would have had a board of ed today that makes these decision with no accountability over their budget. Moving it to April would change that, would give the voters an opportunity to decide that and I think it’s really important.”
Earlier this month when the first draft of the municipal budget was going before the city council, Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Norma Fernandez and the nine trustees penned a lengthy joint statement defending their recent tax increases.
“State Aid to the JCPS was reduced by 68.5 million dollars this year. That brings the total lost revenue under the S2 Legislation to over 225 Million dollars since 2018,” they said in part.
“Approximately 77% of the budget is cost associated with salaries and benefits—every year, wages, benefits, and insurance increase, as do the goods we purchase. The JCPS has the ever-present need to improve facilities and re-invest to address maintenance issues that have been deferred for years due to lack of funding.”
If only JC and Mayor Fulop had not given huge tax breaks and PILOTs to their developer friends exempting them from having to contribute to the school system.