A Closer Look at Jersey City’s School Tax Rate, Part 1: the Public Data

This is the first in a 4-part series about 2018 school tax rates, with a focus on Jersey City. This series will use public data that I have visualized in Tableau here.

I was asked recently, “how does Jersey City’s school tax rate compare with other towns and cities in NJ?”

We can answer this question by using property tax data that is published each year here by NJ’s Local Government Services. I visualized the 2018 data in Tableau (it’s provided at the bottom of this post).

This is part one of a 4-part series looking at school taxes in Jersey City. Parts 2 through 4 will look at the following questions, all of which we can explore in context of the public data:

  1. What is the average school tax rate in NJ and how does Jersey City compare with the average?
  2. Jersey City taxpayers pay property tax…where does that tax go, ie how are property tax dollars allocated (and prioritized) in Jersey City?
  3. How we can evaluate Jersey City’s local response to the school funding crisis in light of this public data?

Dig In!

Each year, the state of NJ publishes public tax data on its Division of Local Government website here. I’ve taken the excel file for 2018 at that site and plugged it into Tableau, a data analytics software. You can expand the window to a full view screen using the icons on the bottom right of the visualization.

In my next post I will look at how Jersey City’s school tax rate compares with the state average rate.Key terms and concepts are provided as reference below the visualization.

Background about the public data.

There are 3 views shown:

  1. A view of how each town in NJ allocates property tax (tab #1)
  2. A view of how each town’s school tax rate compares to the statewide average rate (which is 1.4%)
  3. A fuller dataset – filterable and sortable, so you can compare and contrast specific towns with each other.

Some key terms and concepts.

Every town and city in NJ has three distinct property tax levies and rates:

  • a Municipal tax levy & rate – this is the rate determined by the city (e.g. mayor and city council)
  • A County tax levy & rate – this is the rate determined by the county government (e.g. county executive and freeholders)
  • A Schools tax levy & rate – this the rate determined by the schools administration (eg the superintendent) and Board of Education (eg board trustees)

Tax Levy vs. Tax Rate vs. Tax Base

A reminder: the property tax rate is determined by dividing the levy by the tax base.

The tax base is the value of taxable property in the community. The “equalized” value is the market value, or ‘true’ value (as opposed to the ‘assessed’ value which is a frozen-in-time value on the city’s books for tax purposes.

The levy is the amount that each governing body decides, via public vote, to raise in property taxes for the specific governing body’s budget.

And the rate is what you get when you divide the levy by the tax base.

There are three “component” tax rates that, when added up, give us the total, “general” property tax rate that is used to compute your tax bill:

  • The Municipal tax rate = Municipal Levy / Tax Base
  • The County tax rate = County Levy / Tax Base
  • The Schools tax rate = Schools Levy / Tax Base
  • The General tax rate = Municipal rate + County rate + Schools rate


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