Hoboken council tables measure to disburse 770 Jackson St. PILOT funds among all schools

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The Hoboken City Council opted to table a resolution that would’ve disbursed the 770 Jackson Street payment in lieu of taxes funds at all schools, including the city’s three charters, during last evening’s five-hour meeting.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“The funds are due to the Hoboken Public School District, not the charter schools … The funding formula for the charter schools is based on the citywide tax levy and the PILOT takes the money out of that bid bucket before the calculation is made,” said Monika Cross.

As HCV noted yesterday, the resolution in front of the council last night would’ve allocated the revenue from the 770 Jackson St. PILOT, approximately $243,000, in the following fashion.

• 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

Some speakers expressed an openness to the three charters combining for less than one third of the PILOT monies allocated to the city’s schools.

“I think Councilwoman Fisher did a good job of sending out an email earlier today explaining the complex math that goes into charter school funding, but I think the important point … here is the way the charter schools funding is calculated, starts with the tax levy,” said 2nd Ward resident David Curtiss.

” … The funding formula for the charter schools is based on the citywide tax levy and the PILOT takes the money out of that bid bucket before the calculation is made.”

Still, others felt that this went against the intent of the PILOT agreement approved by the city in 2017 – although, one of the co-sponsors, former Councilman Dave Mello, said otherwise.

“There are numerous legal issues that make it abundantly clear that it would be against the law for the money under discussion in the PILOT agreement to be diverted away from teh Hoboken Public School District and towards Hoboken’s charter schools,”  said parent and educator Schneur Newfield.

A sociologist, Newfield said that legal matters aside, he felt that was a significant issue on racial and social justice since “economic laws in this country do not usually favor those that are already disadvantaged,” noting that the public schools have the majority of the city’s low-income students.

The seesaw match continued for over three hours, with no signs of compromise in sight.

“Hoboken Charter School has been an amazing accelerant to my son’s development both academically and socially. As to the issue at hand, charter schools, just like public schools, rely on local tax levies,” noted Jeff Tennenbaum.

Vito Gagliardi, counsel for the Hoboken Board of Education for about the past decade, said the BOE “does not challenge the opportunity for charter schools to benefit from a PILOT program,” but continued that the resolution in front of the city council was “illegal.”

Additionally, Eduardo Gonzalez, a former Elysian Charter School board president, said that the resolution is meant to “alleviate the tax burden and tax loss on all public schools,” which has nothing to do with student enrollment.

He called the roughly 80-20 split “the most equitable and the most just.”

As the measure appeared to finally be coming up to a vote around 11 p.m., 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo, the other sponsor of the PILOT resolution along with Mello, pushed back on the notion that anyone was being shortchanged.

“This isn’t defunding anyone: this is gifting. We have no obligation to give any, zero, to any school system. But we, in 2016, not ’17, decided that’s what we wanted to do. As corporation counsel’s office clearly state in a memo, we in 2016 could not bind any future council,” Russo explained.

“This would have to be a recurring resolution year over year to continue that funding. So as Councilman Doyle stated, his a 1,000 percent correct in stating that it doesn’t matter what the intent was in 2016: we can do what we want right now!”

4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, the sponsor of the resolution and also the chair of the education committee, said he hoped to reach an outcome where everyone can feel like a winner like they did in 2017.

Ultimately, the measure was pulled from the agenda and Ramos, through the education committee, will be in charge of bringing the four school district stakeholders together to reach a compromise.

Back on October 7th, Mayor Ravi Bhalla said that he felt the 770 PILOT Jackson St. PILOT deal “has no effect” on the city’s charter schools and, at least for now, it now appears that it will be up to the council to determine whether or not that’s true.