I have been writing Civic Parent in Jersey City for nearly 10 years, since November 2013, soon after the "Journal Squared" pilot was approved. I started Civic Parent because I cared about local public schools and my community, did not understand local finance related to the public schools, had concerns around that financing, and wanted...
This post made my head spin a bit … the math and timing is wonky and confusing. I’ve done my best to break it down and welcome dialog and feedback about anything that is unclear. This past week, Jersey City’s municipal council passed its annual 2022 budget with a $112 million increase to the city...Continue reading
I recently spoke after mass at my church, St. Aedan’s, about the fact that most of Jersey City’s public schools lack working water fountains in all the schools. The result, I shared, was that kids often go through the school day thirsty; they are distracted from academics due to thirst, they suffer headaches due to thirst,...Continue reading
In my years within Jersey City Public Schools as both an advocate and a parent, I have heard stories of children who experience poor school climate. School climate is a casual term that some of us may use in a colloquial sense, but it is also framed professionally by school and mental health experts in...Continue reading
I’ve often received the question: how does our town’s property tax compare to the state average? Using the most recently available 2021 statewide data (from the Division of Local Government Services here), I put that visual together below. When viewing the visual, it’s important to note: This visual shows property tax for 3 local governments...Continue reading
It’s worth sharing some good news as we head into the new school year: Jersey City Together’s education team has helped push for water remediation in over a dozen schools. Specifically, more than a dozen schools now have new, 21st century working water fountains. The list of schools that have had new working water fountains...Continue reading
I wanted to share some thoughts around the $89 million "maintenance of equity" funds that Jersey City Public Schools received this week. The quick highlight, if I could make one, is: yes, this $89 million is indeed a windfall...but we are still facing a fiscal cliff and we all have to be aware of that...Continue reading
This is part of a series about the 2022 Jersey City budget. To see the full series, click here. For a listing of public data used in this post, please see the bottom of the post. Many thanks to those in community who gave feedback about this topic/post and helped improve it from concept to...Continue reading
In this post I’m using 2 public datasets: A: Jersey City’s 2022 Municipal Budget (Introduced) with proposed 2022 revenue and expense, located on the city website here. B: Jersey City’s 2015-2021 Municipal Budget summaries compiled in NJ’s User Friendly Budget Database (Excel file downloadable here). On June 15th, Jersey City released introduced its 2022 budget....Continue reading
On June 15th, Jersey City released introduced its 2022 budget. This is a part of a series about that budget. In this post I’m using three public datasets: A: Jersey City’s 2022 Municipal Budget (Introduced) with proposed 2022 revenue and expense, located on the city website here. B: Jersey City’s 2015-2021 Municipal Budget summaries compiled...Continue reading
On June 15th, Jersey City released introduced its 2022 budget. This is a part of a series about that budget. In this post I’m using two public datasets: A: Jersey City’s 2022 Municipal Budget (Introduced) with proposed 2022 revenue and expense, located on the city website here. B: Jersey City’s 2015-2021 Municipal Budget summaries compiled...Continue reading
The Jersey City municipal budget was introduced last week (June 15th) via resolution 22-4009. For the past three years, I've dug into the municipal budget to better understand it. I write about it and share insights and analysis as I proceed; this year will be the fourth cycle and this year I'm adding some live...Continue reading
Tonight the Jersey City Board of Education passed its 2022-23 school budget along a 5-4 vote, approving funds that staved off staff layoffs in the face of historic state aid cuts. The passing of this budget will create ripple effects on the city and county budgeting processes (the city and county have yet to reveal their...Continue reading
The Jersey City Board of Education increased the school tax levy...now what? I'm getting that question from more than a few people so I figured I'd share two tools: A school tax calculator - view an estimate of how your school tax expense will increase in 2022 A 2021 property tax split -- personalized for...Continue reading
This is my final post re: the Jersey City Public Schools budget which will be voted on this Monday. The 2022-23 budget is far from certain to pass; anti-school-tax rhetoric may reduce funding so let's be honest about what that means: possible staff reductions or vacancies that won't be filled. And possibly more. A few...Continue reading
This is an update on the unfolding budget process for Jersey City Public Schools; the budget was introduced Tuesday March 15th and will be finalized on or before next Monday, March 21st. I watched Tuesday’s board of education meeting and then reviewed the budget document on my own, trying to make sense of the numbers...Continue reading
I wanted to share a picture of the state aid reductions to Jersey City Public Schools. State Aid can be confusing because there are various forms of state aid, including: Adjustment aid – this was a one-time bucket of aid that was tied to the initial enactment of SFRA in 2008 Equalization aid — this...
This letter was created by the Jersey City Together Education Team. I am hosting the letter on CivicParent to support the advocacy. To learn more about Jersey City Together's advocacy and ongoing work (and how you can plug in), click here.
Jersey City lost another $68 million in state aid on March 10th, 2022. This cut was expected, part of the phased “S2” cuts that have been reducing Jersey City’s state aid by $100+ million just in the last three years alone. A question I continue to get is: why is state aid being cut, anyway?...
The Jersey City Public Schools have received over $160 million in federal COVID-19 aid since 2020 and I was curious how the funds have been used, the status of what remains, and what insights we can glean from this public data particularly as we approach the annual budget process. I have published a few visualizations...
Let’s take a look at how a tax bill comes together. It’s an interesting and empowering exercise to tie your local government budgets – and the property taxes needed to fund them – to your personal property tax. Every year, the state publishes town-by-town property tax data here that includes a wealth of information including...Continue reading
It has been nearly four years since NJ passed the “S2” law, leading to state aid cuts to Jersey City. In this post I want to assess the fiscal landscape of the public schools using nine years of user friendly budget data, with particular focus on: where the district is with state aid reductions (and...Continue reading
On January 26th, 2022 I joined Montclair Councilor-at-large Peter Yacobellis for a zoom webinar about the Montclair municipal (aka town) budget. My portion of the webinar was a teaching about how to engage the public budget file, which is large, complex, but ultimately a primary source for understanding how the local government both collects and...Continue reading
What’s included in our schools budget, and how is it structured (laid out)? I wanted to create a visualization for the 2021-22 budget; that is provided below. I’m interested in the details of the budget because we need to see, with greater clarity, how funding is being used to invest more in full-time teachers and...Continue reading
For the past few months I’ve been working with a fantastic group of advocates in Montclair to learn more about their city budget. The visual below is an outgrowth of our work. Through dialog, teaming, and learning together, these views helped us better understand revenue and expense trends within the budget. Some of these visuals...Continue reading
Jersey City's FY2021-22 public schools budget included concrete, promised investments in mental health services for our city's students. In this post I want to reopen the budget document that was approved last May and revisit some of that promised investment. A budget can inform future investment but it can, and should, also be used as...Continue reading
This is an update to my “User Friendly Budget” series with a focus on Montclair. Your town’s user friendly budget must be posted on your town’s website (per state law here). The 5th page of the user friendly budget (“UFB-5”) provides a detailed view of your town’s tax base. This is a very informing lens...Continue reading
This is an update to my “User Friendly Budget” series with a focus on Montclair. Your town’s user friendly budget must be posted on your town’s website (per state law here). The first page of the user friendly budget (“UFB-1”) provides a view of the “average” tax bill in your town. The “average” tax bill is based on...Continue reading
I’m excited to share that I’m currently working with a team of civic advocates in Montclair to help grow awareness around NJ’s User Friendly Municipal Budget. On January 26th at 7pm, we’ll be doing a quick but intense dive into Montclair’s local finance, with a teaching about how to navigate the NJ User Friendly Budget....Continue reading
On Thursday, December 16th, the Board of Education held its final regular meeting of the 2021 calendar year and while many speakers had signed up to speak about mental health services in our schools, and many also sent emails (including those sent from this call to action), the Board of Education did not address the...Continue reading
I have written this post with the help and input of Jessica Taube and Divya Dodhia, who are both parents, mental health professionals, and school advocates. The three of us are members of Jersey City Together's Education Team. We came together through our advocacy work and put this page together as a resource for parents,...Continue reading
Update: the BOE did not speak in public to the issue of mental health counselors at the Nov 29th BOE meeting but they did take up an issue around teacher pay which you can read about here. The post below summarizes an issue that is ongoing and merits public attention and advocacy. There is a...Continue reading
Jersey City is experiencing a staffing shortage in its public schools. While this is part of a nationwide trend, local attention and solutions are needed particularly as we experience our first fully funded budget in over a decade. In this post, I am sharing data I compiled in later October from JCPS “Public Board Docs.” I compiled...Continue reading
This is a quick update to my 2021 municipal budget series which I wrote this summer based on the budget introduced in June 2021. On August 31st 2021, the city council approved the budget in its final form with some changes. I wanted to briefly summarize those changes and also close the series with some...
In 2021 Jersey City Public Schools fully funded its schools for the first time in over a decade. Reasonable questions now follow related to transparency and accountability, including: How do we hold the district administration and school board accountable for full investment in our kids? I’m part of a team with Jersey City Together and...Continue reading
This is part of a series on the 2021 city budget. The spirit of this series is: I’m interested in unpacking the budget and sharing as I go. In that same spirit, I’m sharing interactive Tableau data visualizations that help others dig into the budget. See the full series here. The 2021 budget documents are online here. Some...Continue reading
This is part of a series on the 2021 city budget. The spirit of this series is: I’m interested in unpacking the budget and sharing as I go. In that same spirit, I’m sharing interactive Tableau data visualizations that help others dig into the budget. See the full series here. The 2021 budget documents are online...Continue reading
This is part of a series on the 2021 city budget. The spirit of this series is: I’m interested in unpacking the budget and sharing as I go. In that same spirit, I’m sharing interactive Tableau data visualizations that help others dig into the budget. See the full serieshere. The 2021 budget documents are onlinehere. ...Continue reading
This is part of a series on the 2021 city budget. See the full series here. The 2021 budget documents are online here. In this post I want to look at the proposed 2021 Jersey City budget using three questions as a launch point: How is the budget broken down? Has the budget ever been...
A "levy" is the amount raised in property tax to fund a government budget. Typically, a levy is one of multiple sources of revenue that fund total expense. In 2021, Jersey City is poised to both fully fund its schools and also enter a new paradigm with respect to property tax. Let's review what's happening...Continue reading
The Board of Education (BOE) nearly shut down “remote” public comment last week and it’s worth explaining what happened, simply to highlight how important it is for the district and board to improve transparency and communication – both internally but also with the public. “Remote” public comment is calling into a public meeting and sharing...Continue reading
Yesterday, Jersey City taxpayers received initial news that the 2021 municipal budget would “cut taxes for Jersey City residents by an average reduction of $967 a year for every household.” The city’s press release is here, currently the only primary information we have (the actual budget file – typically 50+ pages and loaded onto the...
How does my town's tax rate compare to the state average? Where does most of my property tax go - the city, the county, or the schools? How much is my town's taxable real estate ("ratables") worth? These are all reasonable questions and each year, the state publishes data that can answer them. I'm layering...Continue reading
On its face, the NJ Department of Education's "cost-per-pupil" is an inviting metric upon which to compare and contrast school spending among New Jersey's 600+ districts. However, cost-per-pupil is misleading as it distorts the intentional, extra investment for students with more needs, including at-risk students and students with limited English proficiency. Specifically, the intentionally extra...Continue reading
Superintendent Walker proposed a fully funded budget on Monday, March 15th, a monumental step forward in Jersey City’s efforts to climb out of a gaping funding hole. The Board of Education should approve this budget. Our children are currently underfunded and the BOE is being presented with a plan to start to meaningfully fix that...Continue reading
The 2020 property tax tables for calendar year 2020 are now available. This data provides insight into the way municipal, county, and local public school governments share the total tax dollars each year. The dataset at the link contains: Tax base data Tax levy data – this is what I’ve visualized below Tax rate data...
This post is meant to help a taxpayer get a jump-start on determining: is my property over-assessed? This post is not intended to cover all nuance that may arise for a particular taxpayer. Nuance abounds, which is why I’ve provided links to the state rules and public data. If you are a homeowner than you...Continue reading
Update, Feb 5, 2021: I’m re-upping this post from 2020 to share with anyone who’s interested in the upcoming schools budgeting process in 2021. The annual public schools budgeting process is fairly regimented due in part to milestone dates that live in state law. A timeline of key dates from last year’s budgeting process is...Continue reading
COVID19 remote learning is extremely challenging. It's important to note that some challenges are exacerbated by chronic underfunding of Jersey City Public Schools. For instance, our schools lack: social workers crisis intervention teachers psychologists math & literacy coaches Teachers, paras, and remaining staff are left to absorb much of this work in addition to keeping...Continue reading
This is post included in both my abatement series and a series about the User Friendly Budget in NJ. We need better disclosures in NJ to understand the impact of tax abatements on the local fiscal landscape, particularly as it relates to public schools. The user friendly budget – mandated by the state starting in...Continue reading