The future of the City of Hoboken’s payment in lieu of taxes agreement (PILOT) deal with 770 Jackson Street has enflamed the feud between the local board of education and the city’s three charter schools.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Now that the building is online and payment from the City is due to the Hoboken Public School District, members of the City Council and members of the charter community are taking the position that the charter schools are entitled to a portion of this payment,” the BOE said in an email blast that went out late Sunday evening.
” … Simply put, granting monies from the PILOT payments for 770 Jackson Street to the charter schools ignores the legal process by which charter schools are funded in NJ. This isn’t an issue for the Hoboken City Council to determine, nor does it represent any cut or reduction in funding to the three charter districts.”
The controversy around the matter has come to a head after Mayor Ravi Bhalla sent out a Nixle alert last week that said this PILOT deal “has no effect” on the charter schools: HoLa Dual Language, Elysian Charter, and Hoboken Charter.
Conversely, Hoboken 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos said that the financial analysis performed in 2015 took into account the 1,000 or so students attending the aforementioned charters, therefore it would be disingenuous for those schools not to receive any funding.
Last night, an email blast signed by Lauren Calmas of Hoboken Charter School,
Nicole Cammarota of HoLa Hoboken Dual Language Charter School, and Chris DeFilippis of Elysian Charter School, said both Bhalla and the BOE disseminated “several inaccuracies.”
“If the funds are not shared, the Hoboken BOE will be effectively lowering per-pupil funding for all of Hoboken’s 1,000 charter school students,” they wrote.
“Locking public charter schools out of any revenue stream intended to replace an existing revenue stream that is currently shared with charter schools will further the charter-district funding inequity. This is a result the collective charter community can not accept on behalf of our students and staff.”
BOE President Sharyn Angley said the school trustees will be “reviewing and correcting” the information released by the charters and declined to comment further.
They added that they’ve been in discussions on this topic for eight months and thought everyone was on the same page until the matter was brought up during new business at the October 7th council meeting.
The council opted not to take any further action until the matter was reviewed further.
Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour told HCV that the PILOT agreement approved by the council in 2017, prior to her being elected, is clear.
” … The Council passed a resolution to make the Hoboken Board of Education whole by allocating the sum of money that they would have otherwise received via property taxes,” she began.
“The building at 770 Jackson Street adds students to the Hoboken Public School District because the District is open enrollment and legally required to take all children in the community. Charter Schools have enrollment caps and therefore will not have increased enrollment. As such, this payment should appropriately be directed to the Hoboken Board of Education.”
Conversely, Ramos said today that he still firmly disagrees with this type of interpretation.
“Traditionally PILOTs have reduced tax funding for schools so we did everything possible to ensure that did not occur in this instance … but If 770 Jackson St. paid conventional property taxes, it would go into a local levy that would be apportioned among all of the Hoboken schools, district and charter,” he said.
“So I don’t understand why we would all of a sudden create something that does the opposite of what would normally occur in funding distribution. There is no magical set of funding that funds one set of kids vs another – that is just a complete misunderstanding of municipal government and taxes.”
The resolution never specifically mentions the board of education or the charter school system, simply using the term “Hoboken School District.”
” … The City Council shall include in each annual Municipal Budget, an appropriation to the Hoboken School District in an amount equivalent to the greater of (1) 25 percent of the annual PILOT revenue received by the City from this project … ”
The next Hoboken City Council meeting is scheduled for October 21st at 7 p.m. and will convene via Zoom – with live steaming available on the city’s Facebook page.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information.