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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Tax Abatements 401: The Transparency Issue

In his 2010 report, “A Programmatic Examination of Tax Abatements,” NJ Comptroller A. Matthew Boxer highlighted numerous weaknesses with abatements.  One issue he touched upon was transparency.  He stated, “Information concerning abatement[s]…is not published in a transparent manner or centralized location, making it difficult to impossible for the public to compare, calculate the effect of, […]

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+ […]

JCPS 2-Volume Demographic Study (Published in 2014)

Below are links to the 2-volume demographic study published by the Jersey City Public Schools district in 2013 and 2014. These documents are an extensive analysis of Jersey City’s city-driven development (Volume 1) and the capacity outlined in each school (Volume 2). These are documents published by JCPS and I’m sharing on CivicParent as reference. […]

Tax Abatements 301: Two Sides of the Same PILOT

This is article #3 in my series about abatements.  Article #1 is “Tax Abatements 101: The Basics” and Article #2 is “Tax Abatements 201: Abatement Impact on Conventional Taxpayers.” In my previous post, “Tax Abatements 201: Abatement Impact on Conventional Taxpayers”, I focused on the orange slice of the pie pieces below.  In this post I […]

Tax Abatements 201: Abatement Impact on Conventional Taxpayers

This is Article #2 in my series about abatements, which focuses on the impact abatements have on conventional taxpayers.  My first post, “Abatement Basics,” is located here.  How important are abatements to Jersey City residents?  The answer: extremely important.  Abatement revenues – also known as PILOTs, or “payments in lieu of taxes” – have increased from 3% of […]

News Flash: JCPS is now on Twitter! (@jcps_district)

I’m a big believer in getting civic, and a big part of getting civic is tuning-in to your local community.  Once you start tuning in, your confidence to provide feedback and become part of the conversation grows, and then a virtuous cycle of community and civic partnership is born.  But oftentimes, tuning-in can seem impossible, especially […]

Jersey City Public Schools: Year in Review, 2013

Last night at 6pm, inside Martin Luther King, Jr. (PS 11) school on Bergen Avenue, three new members of Jersey City’s Board of Education (“BOE”) and one incumbent member were sworn into office.  The Board of Education is the governing body over the City’s 35+ public schools, which serve more than 28,000 students each year on […]

EMS & Ambulance Gap Analysis

The Jersey Journal reported on Friday, December 13, 2013 that Mayor Fulop and his administration want to  change Jersey City’s EMS provider.  I wrote a separate blog post here that goes into more background about both providers.   The Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC) is the current EMS provider, and their current contract expires on December 31, […]

Ambulances, Politics, and Money

What defines a best-in-class ambulance and EMT service?  The Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) has an answer: the Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC).   What is the most expensive hospital in the United States?  The NY Times has an answer: Bayonne Medical Center, owned by CarePoint Health.   So…why is Jersey City looking to sever its […]

Why Use Twitter? To Follow Your Local Reporter, of Course

I often hear friends say “I don’t understand Twitter…” and then list a litany of reasons of why Twitter stinks.  But if you live in Jersey City, then here is one reason you should use Twitter: to follow Jersey Journal reporter Terrence McDonald. Twitter is a tool, like anything else.  You may not have much to […]

Let’s Get Civic

The genesis of CivicParent.org…. I live in Jersey City and on November 14, 2013 I learned that Mayor Fulop’s first abatement – the 3 towers planned for Journal Square – would not include dedicated funding for Jersey City public schools.  I also learned that five City Council members, all of whom were Fulop-endorsed candidates,  approved […]