Hoboken BOE urging council not to directly allocate 770 Jackson St. PILOT funds to charters

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The Hoboken Board of Education is urging the city council not to directly allocate 770 Jackson St. PILOT funds to the city’s three charter schools, though the resolution on tonight’s agenda would do exactly that if approved.

The Hoboken Board of Education. Screenshot via YouTube.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“In 2017, to incentivize local development, the City of Hoboken entered into an agreement whereby it would abate the taxes slated for local taxing authorities and accept ‘payments in lieu of [those] taxes,’ or PILOT payments, from the developer,” the BOE wrote in a letter to the council yesterday, stating that they represent 3,400 students and staff.

” … However, recent public discussion on the PILOT has obscured this core purpose and principle: To compensate the taxing authorities that would lose tax revenue due to the PILOT agreement, but still must provide an increased level of local services to the development.”

On October 7th, Mayor Ravi Bhalla said that the PILOT deal, which included $52 million in community givebacks from the developer, Bijou Properties, “has no effect” on the city’s three charter schools: HoLa Dual Language, Elysian Charter, and Hoboken Charter.

This effectively enflamed a feud between the BOE and the charter schools, who said in an October 13th email blast that “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.”

In the BOE’s most recent letter, they argued that although the populations of the charter schools were considered when calculating the PILOT agreement, a point first raised by 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, including the charters is not explicitly included in the language of the approved resolution.

“This assertion is an over-simplistic basis for what is attempting to be accomplished, and is simply not supported by the plain language of the resolution itself or the law applied to the language of the resolution.”

As of now, the resolution that the council will be voting on this evening, sponsored by Ramos, would call for the PILOT allocations as follows if approved:

• 78.2% to the Hoboken Public School District

• 8.77% to the HoLa Charter School

• 7.72% to the Elysian Public Charter School

• 5.31% to the Hoboken Public Charter School

Former Councilman Dave Mello, who is currently the chair of the city’s housing authority board and one of the original sponsors of the 2017 resolution along with 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, said in a lengthy Facebook post he always supported funding both the public and charter schools.

“It was my intent, as the sponsor, that this resolution require a portion of this PILOT payment to the City of Hoboken to be distributed to each of the four public and tax payer supported school systems in Hoboken, estimated to be equal to the amount that each would have received if the developer paid their taxes via a typical tax levy,” Mello wrote.

“All four schools have their actual funding fluctuate year to year, regardless of any change in their total number of enrollment; however, the funding formula remains the same.”

The Hoboken council convenes tonight at 7 p.m. via Zoom, with the meeting streaming live on the city’s Facebook page.