The Jersey City Council will vote on introducing the preliminary $695,264,198.48 this week, with the city blaming the tax hike on the board of education, prompting them to explain the school tax increase.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Last year, the city’s roughly $620 million municipal budget came with just a under a $1,000 tax decrease per household, buoyed by $69 million received from the American Rescue Plan.
In 2021, the amount to be raised by taxation for municipal purpose was $207,394,643, a number that has climbed to $307,978,195.82 this time around. The budget also includes $69,985,967.50 in COVID relief and indicates they overspent last year’s budget by $7,013,671.14.
Ultimately, the municipal budget comes with about a $1,030 tax increase per household assessed at $470,000, compared to a $967 tax decrease last year.
City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione acknowledged that some residents will see an over 30 percent increase on their third quarter tax bill, but solely laid the blame at the feet of the BOE, who last month approved a nearly $974 million budget with an annual tax increase of $1,608 on a home evaluated at $460,000.
Last year’s $814 million BOE budget, which activists praised for being fully funded, came with just a $1,000 tax increase per household assessed at $460,000.
“The city’s municipal portion of the taxes, which the mayor controls, is exactly in line with where it was prior to the pandemic and consistent with what the mayor has always done. That is a true accomplishment despite rising costs. The Board of Education’s actions are just irresponsible,” she rationalized.
“Last year, the mayor used one-time federal COVID dollars for a one-time relief to help offset the Board of Education’s massive tax increase, with the hope that it would give them more time to figure out their finances. The mayor also gave them a roadmap to help with their budget. Unfortunately, not only did the Board of Education not fix their budget from last year, but they irresponsibly layered on another massive increase.”
Wallace-Scalcione also noted that the BOE now accounts for 40 percent of the total tax bill, compared to 26 percent in 2020, as well as that the public school tax rate has doubled – .429 to 860 – during that same time frame as the city reduced it’s tax portion from 43 percent to 35 percent.
About another 20 percent comes from the county, with the remaining 5 percent or so attributed to initiatives such as the Open Space Trust Fund, the Arts and Culture Trust Fund, and the library tax.
From last year, municipal salaries and wages are up just under $50 million overall, with police salaries and wages up from $90,540,408 to $109,835,622.
In a lengthy joint statement from Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Norma Fernandez and the nine BOE trustees, they said school tax increases were inevitable due to state aid cuts and less than expected revenue from the payroll tax.
” … These tax increases were inevitable and necessary to comply with the JCPS mandatory obligations to its students under the applicable statutes and New Jersey Constitution. We continue to advocate for all the children in the public and charter schools to have a thorough and efficient education as stipulated in the constitutional amendment that requires the state to provide maintenance and support for a system of free public schools for New Jersey’s children,” they told HCV.
“State Aid to the JCPS was reduced by 68.5 million dollars this year. That brings the total lost revenue under the S2 Legislation to over 225 Million dollars since 2018. Approximately 77% of the budget is cost associated with salaries and benefits—every year, wages, benefits, and insurance increase, as do the goods we purchase. The JCPS has the ever-present need to improve facilities and re-invest to address maintenance issues that have been deferred for years due to lack of funding. We must replace trailers with classrooms and fix and replace boilers, windows, doors, and brick facades.”
They continued that their group of 10 individuals make difficult decisions each month for Jersey City students, further stating that they have allowed the city to decide how to meet their “moral and financial obligations” to the schools.
Their caucus meeting is going on now at City Hall, 280 Grove St., with their regularly scheduled meeting for their first vote on the budget set for Wednesday at 6 p.m.
The 95-page budget can be reviewed here.