Fulop Era Abatements Approved from 2013 to 2016 (Part 1 – the Map)

I’m sharing a new map I created that pin-drops all abatements approved since Mayor Fulop and the current City Council took office*, i.e. since the summer of 2013.  I created the map after reading Terrence McDonald‘s recent article from the Jersey Journal titled “Has Steve Fulop Evolved on Tax Abatements?”  It’s a valid question and […]

JCPS Funding 201: How JCPS Spends Its Money…A High Level Primer

I detailed in my last post how the JCPS budget is funded by a mix of state, local, and federal tax dollars.  But how is that money then spent? That is the main focus of this post.  Governor Christie approved a budget this week that included $8.5 million in state aid cuts to Jersey City Public Schools […]

JCPS Funding 101: Why Possible State Aid Cuts = “Major Hardship”

I will be writing about this issue as it unfolds, it’s a big topic that taxpayers should understand.   This is a quick primer on why the Sweeney-Prieto proposal to cut $8.5 million in state aid from Jersey City Public Schools would, to use Superintendent Dr. Lyles term, cause a “major hardship” for the district. […]

Mapping Jersey City’s Abatements by Project Type and Ward

If you are new to the topic of abatements, I recommend my tax abatement series here.  I’ve updated my 2015 long-term abatement map to include 2016 data. The map is provided below, along with reports showing underlying data grouped by project type (affordable housing vs. market) and by ward. Source data was derived from the city’s user friendly […]

JCPS Funding Basics: What Schools Are In Your Neighborhood?

As I start to de-puzzle school funding and how $8+ million in aid cuts will impact Jersey City, I wanted to map JCPS’ 40 schools, and accompanying basic profile information, as listed on the JCPS Website. This map provides a visual of the schools in our city and will serve as a reference as this series unfolds.  I will be […]

Property Revaluation 501: Mapping & Color Coding Jersey City Home Sales by Assessment-Sales Ratio

This post is part of an ongoing series about property revaluation in Jersey City.   I partnered with CivicJC to create an interactive map to help residents visualize 2015 property sales in Jersey City and their corresponding taxes. Recent property sales are informing because they are used as a proxy for market value when establishing the city’s annual equalization ratio. Click here to […]

Property Revaluation 401: Tax Appeal Math (Chapter 123 Law)

This is part of an ongoing series about property revaluation in Jersey City.  Note: this post presumes an understanding of the equalization ratio, which I previously wrote about in “Property Revaluation 101: the Equalization Ratio.”  With Jersey City officials recently announcing that they would finally move forward with a property revaluation, a common question has emerged: “is my home currently under-assessed, […]

Property Revaluation 301: Estimating Your Post-Revaluation Tax Bill

This is part of an ongoing series about property revaluation in Jersey City.  I’ve been asked by a few people: “How do I estimate what my taxes will be after the city revalues?”  For non-abated homeowners, this is fairly straightforward and based on publicly available tax data. Here’s the formula: Post-Revaluation Tax Bill = Your Property’s Current Market Value * […]

Property Revaluation 201: Quantifying Tax Inequity (A Simple Example)

This is part of an ongoing series about property revaluation in Jersey City.  In my last post, I explained how Jersey City’s low equalization ratio was a cause for revaluation.  The reason: when a city’s equalization ratio is low, its market values have grown out of sync with its assessed values, and that opens the door to potential tax […]

Property Revaluation 101: the Equalization Ratio

This the first post in a series about property revaluation in Jersey City. Jersey City has been growing at a breakneck speed for the past fifteen years.  As a city grows, it is required to stop along the way and revalue its real estate.  This process is termed “revaluation.”  Revaluation is about ensuring that tax assessed values – […]

Jersey City PILOTs Rob Funding from the School System

A strong public school system is essential bedrock to a healthy community. Yet in Jersey City, our bedrock is threatened by a fiscal policy that is over-reliant on PILOTs.  Here’s the crux of the problem: PILOTs help grow the city, which in turn increases demand for public schools.  But PILOTed residents don’t pay school tax, leaving taxpayers to bear the burden of […]

Mayor Fulop: Please Stop Politicizing Our Public Schools

I emailed this letter to Mayor Fulop on September 24th. Dear Mayor Fulop, After reading this article in today’s Jersey Journal, I’m asking you, as a parent of two children in the Jersey City Public School (JCPS) system: Please stop politicizing our public schools.   I was at the Jersey City Board of Education (BOE) meeting […]

Mapping Abatements in Jersey City

As I explained in my last post, transparency around abatements is finally, slowly, increasing.  As data is unlocked, taxpayers can glean greater insight into how their tax dollars are spent.  To help with this effort, I’ve mapped the 146 abatements from Jersey City’s 2015 “user friendly budget” into an easy-to-use Google map. Let’s Get Civic with […]

Tax Abatements 601: Brighter Sunshine Mandated for NJ Abatements

Tax abatement reporting in Jersey City is finally getting more transparent.  Two distinct authoritative bodies have mandated changes that require Jersey City (and other cities) to get onboard the transparency train. This news should come as a relief to taxpayers since abatements now constitute over 20% of Jersey City’s annual revenue yet have been sharply criticized by the NJ Comptroller as being too opaque and […]

Press Releases, Property Taxes, and the Value of Spin

Mayor Fulop announced last week the hiring of a new communications director for Jersey City, 26-year old Ryan Jacobs, at a salary of $110,000.  The current communications director, Jennifer Morrill, earns $100,614 and will remain as press secretary “to assist…with day to day operations.”  Jersey City taxpayers are now paying over $200,000 for spokesperson duties. A city […]

Sustainability, Community, and that Beautiful Sign at PS #3

Frank Conwell Public School (PS) #3 is a school committed to sustainability; they now have a sign to prove it.  And it’s a really beautiful sign at that. This morning, through a partnership with Slow Food USA, Lead Teacher Mark Buttner and two preK classes celebrated the unveiling.  At about five feet tall, the sign was provided by Slow […]

Why Taxes Are Rising in Jersey City

This is my 2nd article in a series about property taxes in Jersey City. The 1st article, “Jersey City Rising,” is available here.  The General tax rate in Jersey City has increased 67% over the past seventeen years, from 4.46 in 1998 to 7.43 in 2014.  Over this time period, there has been no City-wide revaluation, so this […]

Jersey City Rising

Jersey City is a community on the rise. In the past ten years, dozens of new buildings have risen towards the sky along the waterfront, more residents are moving in, and public school enrollment is on the upswing.  But as buildings, residents, and school enrollments have risen, so too have property taxes; for the average Jersey City […]

An EMS Contract We Can Believe In

This past week, Mayor Fulop’s administration announced its recommendation to the City Council that Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC) be awarded the 3-year Basic Life Services (“BLS”) EMS contract at zero cost to taxpayers.  This marks a positive, penultimate step in what has been a protracted,  and often contentious, process to award Jersey City’s next 3-year […]

Vote for Excellence on Tuesday November 4th

In Jersey City, 25% of the average resident’s property tax bill is allocated to Jersey City Public Schools (JCPS).   As such, the Board of Education (BOE) election – held this year on Tuesday, November 4th – is an opportunity for taxpayers to weigh in on how they want their local tax dollars spent. The question […]

City Hall Annex: Concerns About the Fine Print

Jersey City currently rents office space at several locations other than City Hall for a total of about $2.7 million per year.  To cut costs and give residents a single location (other than City Hall) to access services, the City wants to create a City Hall Annex (“the Annex”).  A key question has become: how much money should the City pay for the new space? […]

Jersey City Public Schools: 2013-14 Year in Review

This week marks the conclusion of the 2013-14 year for Jersey City Public Schools.  The last week of school is an opportunity to pause, reflect upon, and celebrate some of the highlights from the past ten months. JCPS serves nearly 30,000 school children through 39 schools that operate on a budget of over $650 million. […]

Mayor Fulop, About the Annex…

On Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 7:30pm, the Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association (HPNA) will host Mayor Steven Fulop for Q&A during their monthly meeting.  One issue likely to be discussed is the community building at 180 9th Street — aka “the Cordero Annex” or “the former Golden Door Charter School.”  The building has been the subject of contention in recent months due to […]

Jersey City, We Have A Problem.

Jersey City has been estimating the cost of its abatements incorrectly for at least eight years, and the impact to conventional taxpayers could amount to millions of dollars. Here’s the problem: Jersey City has been under-counting the number of (a) residents and (b) public school students that will eventually live in each abated building.  The City has been using […]

Van Vorst Park: Won’t You Be Their Neighbors? (Originally Published Nov 2013)

The post below – originally published in November 2013 on my other blog – is a primer for an upcoming article that will show how the “Bright & Varick micro units” are now sitting squarely at the intersection of public schools, taxes, and abatements in Jersey City.  Stay tuned as we connect the dots in Jersey City… The “Bright & […]

Abatements 501: A Critique of Mayor Fulop’s “Buy Up” Abatement Policy

In my Abatement Series, I’ve discussed the basic premise of abatements, how they are funded, and the impact to conventional taxpayers.  In this post I look at Mayor Fulop’s new tax abatement policy for Jersey City, which includes two notable components: Tiering System: A system of awarding abatements based on geographic location or project type1.  Each “tier” […]

What Does 1.88 Students Look Like?

On Wednesday night, the City Council approved an 80-unit abatement in downtown Hamilton Park.  Here are some of the specs on the property: located at 9th & Brunswick in downtown Hamilton Park a community the abatement will extend for 20 years contain 80 units, including 20 3-bedroom units and 35 2-bedroom units 1.88 kids from the building will attend the […]

A Concerned Parent Addresses City Council re: Classroom Shortage in Jersey City

The letter below was read into the City Council record on March 26, 2014 by Sarah Welt, a downtown mom with a child who is eligible for public pre-K this coming fall.  Sarah has been instrumental in informing many parents in downtown about the PS 37 annex issue.  Sarah waited five hours to speak during the public portion […]

JCPS Demographic Study: Pertinent Facts re: Classroom Space

A Jersey City parent who reviewed the Board of Education’s (BOE) two demographic studies asked that I share pertinent information from the studies as it relates to the pre-K facility issue.  If you’re unfamiliar with that issue, this article in the Jersey City Independent provides background information.  The Jersey City Public Schools (JCPS) has 28,000+ […]