Hoboken charter schools retain counsel in ongoing struggle over 770 Jackson St. PILOT

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Hoboken’s three charter schools have retained counsel in the ongoing struggle over the 770 Jackson St. payment in lieu of taxes revenues ahead of tonight’s council meeting where they could vote on a resolution to allocate all of the funding to the board of education.

The Elysian Charter School. Photo via Google Maps.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

” … There have been discussions about excluding the Charter Schools from the approximate $243,000 that was appropriated under the 2020 Hoboken Municipal Budget for the Hoboken School District. Indeed, we understand that the enclosed ordinance is slated to be presented at the November 4, 2020 Hoboken City Council meeting,” McCarter and English Partner Guillermo Artiles wrote in a letter to the council and Mayor Ravi Bhalla yesterday.

“We strongly urge the Council to refrain from hastily passing this ordinance, which would ultimately exclude the Charter Schools from the PILOT payments appropriated under the 2020 Municipal Budget. The ordinance would fly in the face of the Resolution and would ultimately reduce per pupil funding, thus hurting every child that attends a public charter school in Hoboken.”

The council had a measure before them at their October 21st meeting that would’ve split the PILOT revenue roughly 80/20 between the BOE and the three charter schools: Elysian, HoLa, and Hoboken Public Charter, but that didn’t receive a vote after four hours of public comment.

Tonight, 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen and Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour are sponsoring a resolution, which also has the support of Councilman-at-Large James Doyle – all allies of Bhalla – to allocate the PILOT funds exclusively to the BOE.

“The purpose of this payment is to address the burden placed on the Hoboken Board of Education by the 424 units built as part of this development project, since, by definition, PILOT payments circumvent the typical tax levy allocation that would have provided relief to the local school system,” the trio said in a joint statement.

“This payment rightly assures that all Hoboken taxpayers receive the benefit of these funds by allocating to the Hoboken Board of Education, a position the three of us have had since the very beginning of this discussion. Further, this outcome is consistent with the legal advice provided to the City by Corporation Counsel that the only legal recipient for these funds is the Hoboken Board of Education.”

Cohen indicated that he would be introducing the resolution during last week’s edition of HCV Live and Uncut.

At the October 21st session, BOE Counsel Vito Gagliardi said the resolution introduced by 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Rams was “illegal” since the city can’t allocate funds to charters directly.

2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said that she has been working with other colleagues to try and come up with an amicable outcome that benefits all four parties, therefore this measure probably won’t yield serious consideration.

“Based on the recommendation that came out of the last council meeting, a couple of us have been working in good faith with corporation counsel and the BOE to reach out to the state Department of Education to reach a more equitable and better resolution,” she said today.

“I think tonight’s resolution is premature and won’t have the votes to pass, but I’m confident we’ll have a better resolution in the coming weeks.”

Furthermore, the BOE had been steadfast that they are owed the full $243,000 based on the PILOT that was approved by the council back in 2016.

A letter to the council from the BOE dated October 29th blasted them for not removing Ramos’ resolution prior to the meeting since they knew it was legally deficient, as well as that the majority of the elected officials were using the “schools as pawns.”

“Resolution CL2, known to be unequivocally illegal at least 24 hours before the meeting by its drafter and sponsor, should have been pulled at the outset of the meeting, thereby saving everyone’s time and avoiding the display that now risks leaving our public divided,” the letter reads.

“Regrettably, it appeared to many watching that night as an orchestrated political move in advance of next year’s mayoral race using the Hoboken Public School District and the three Hoboken charter schools as pawns.”

In an email to the BOE, Fisher responded that neither she, Ramos, or anyone else on the council were playing politics in this matter, it was Bhalla, referring to the fact that he said on October 9th that the PILOT “has no effect” on the city’s charter schools.

The council will convene this evening via Zoom at 7 p.m. and will stream live on the City of Hoboken’s Facebook page.

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