The three Hoboken charter schools okayed a resolution last week opposing all payment in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) until the 770 Jackson St. situation is resolved.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“We are alarmed at recent reports that the City of Hoboken is considering new Payment in Lieu of Taxes (‘PILOT’) programs. Traditional PILOTs harm public education, as they eliminate tax payments to the local tax levy that fund each of the four Hoboken public school districts,” the trustees of Elysian Charter School, Hoboken Charter School, and HoLa Charter School wrote Mayor Ravi Bhalla and the city council last week.
“The current funds designated for schools from the 770 Jackson PILOT remain undistributed, even though a legal path for sharing them has been confirmed by the State. As such, our school communities cannot support future PILOT developments without a collaborative resolution on how to mitigate the harm PILOTs cause to all of Hoboken’s public school students.”
The charters had been pushing to be included in the 770 Jackson St. PILOT revenue, which is about $243,000, though the board of education has said otherwise since the subject came to a head in October 2020.
The topic as seen little movement in recent months, though an email blast from Elysian Charter School Board Chair Chris DeFilippis points out two significant developments from 2021.
“In May 2021, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs approved a path to distribute these funds to all four of Hoboken’s public schools,” he noted.
“On October 6, 2021, the Hoboken City Council unanimously approved a resolution that the 770 Jackson Street PILOT funds should be equitably shared between the four public districts.”
Neither email specified the potential PILOT programs in the works, nor are any on tomorrow’s city council agenda.
A city spokeswoman did not return an inquiry seeking comment.
It is yet another failure of Mayor Bhalla’s administration. I say the Administration because anyone who has even a passing knowledge of how things work in Hoboken City Hall the Mayor delegates everything. They have had a long time to fix the problem and they did not. Which means they do not have the knowledge and expertise to do so or they don’t want to fix the problem. If given a simple task and more than enough time to find a solution is too difficult for the very well paid existing staff then they need to be replace.
PILOT payments don’t automatically “go to the schools” no matter what the Mayor and Council say or write into a redevelopment plan or agreement when the PILOT is passed. The money goes to the City, and future Mayors and Councils are not bound by the stated intentions of the Mayor and Council that passed the PILOT.
Each year, in the budget, appropriations can be made to help the public schools with the City’s money. Money is fungible and the idea that it would come from a particular PILOT is really a marketing fiction. The PILOT payment “set aside” is in actuality just a political frame of reference to calculate a rationale and amount.
My understanding is that if this Council and Mayor want to honor the Zimmer Administration’s and then Council’s promise that the City annually contribute to the public schools an amount equal to the set % of the 770 Jackson PILOT, all they need to do is appropriate the funds in the budget and make the payment.
If the DCA has advised the City that Charters can be included, then it’s up to the Mayor and the Council to decide whether to do so and appropriate accordingly.
There simply isn’t anything to be “resolved.” There is a decision to be made that, either way, will not make everyone happy. And everyone should understand that whatever decision is made now by this Mayor and this Council for this year won’t create a legal precedent. It will set a political precedent, but that precedent won’t bind this or any future Mayor and Council on any future payment based on this or any future PILOT.
If you want the public school district to be guaranteed money each year – don’t PILOT. That’s really the only way to make sure the district will get it’s share of revenue. Otherwise it’s all discretionary with each year’s City government and the decision as to whether to pay, how much to pay, and whether to include Charters will have to be remade every year I’m each year’s political environment. And given the longstanding use of the competition between the “district” and the charters as a political football, that could result in nobody getting anything while the political games go on.
Which is exactly what seems to be happening.