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
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
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
Note: the visualizations below are best viewed on a computer or tablet (vs a phone). Jersey City recently announced it was terminating an abatement on four buildings within the Beacon complex. The reason: “ownership defaulted on an obligation to retain and present employee records, city officials announced.” This is a good reminder that abatements are...Continue reading
Last month (October 2020) the state published the 2019 property tax tables. This is a “look back” at the local property tax landscape in New Jersey. It’s a wonderful treasure trove of public data from municipal, county, and local public school governments including: Tax base data Tax levy data Tax rate data Property appeals data...Continue reading
Sharing an open letter and thoughts that I read into the record at the City Council meeting on Oct 7, 2020. I’m publishing it on CivicParent as part of a new area of content related to Jersey City’s increasingly outdated assessed values and the growing need for another revaluation. The last revaluation was in 2017/18....Continue reading
This is a post in a series about NJ's User Friendly Budget. My intent is to share basic analysis and insights with community as a way to encourage taxpayers to engage with this document and learn more about local public finance. Read the other posts in this series here including how to access your town's UFB and the...Continue reading
This is a post in a series about NJ's User Friendly Budget. My intent is to share basic analysis and insights with community as a way to encourage taxpayers to engage with this document and learn more about local public finance. Read the other posts in this series here including how to access your town's UFB...Continue reading
This is a post in a series about NJ’s User Friendly Budget. My intent is to share basic analysis and insights with community as a way to encourage taxpayers to engage with this document and learn more about local public finance. Read the other posts in this series here including how to access your town’s UFB...Continue reading
This is part of a series about the User Friendly Budget. This is a relatively short post to lay out what’s in the User Friendly Budget. I also want to share some of how I think this file can be used by taxpayers and advocates. As I explained in the first post in this series,...Continue reading
Five years ago, New Jersey began mandating that every municipality* in New Jersey file a “User Friendly Budget (UFB)” as part of the annual budgeting process. This file is “user friendly” for a few reasons: The data is aggregated in unique ways that help us see the structural nature of how the city both collects...Continue reading
I am part of the education team with Jersey City Together and in May 2020 we created a school tax expense calculator to help Jersey City residents understand the personal investment for a $50 million increase to the school levy. Our aim was to the put the power of understand property taxes into taxpayers’ hands. ...
Jersey City’s Board of Education took a huge step forward, following Superintendent Walker’s courageous lead to invest in Jersey City Public Schools. I didn’t write up a post specific to this but am sharing the NJ.com article below that explain the vote. Also providing a visual – shared from Jersey City Together – that shows...Continue reading
As we enter the budget season for Jersey City Public Schools, I wanted to share some upcoming process info – key dates & timeframes in case it’s helpful for parents and advocates. It’s never too late to get involved. BOE Budget Process – Working Timeline This timeline was updated after the budget process concluded. See...Continue reading
In February 2020 the City Council introduced its 2020 budget (the city has typically approved the annual budget only in the summer / Quarter 3 timeframe — I don’t know the reason for the lag, only that the lag exists). Upon release of the budget, I converted the PDF into Excel and then uploaded to...
To help taxpayers access the annual city budget, I've visualized it the 2019/20 proposed budget in Tableau, a data visualization software. Tableau puts the power of analysis in the user's hands; my hope is that YOU will dig into this budget data and feel empowered to engage, or perhaps more fully engage, the annual budgeting...Continue reading
I've heard "can't we go after the abatement money to fund our schools? Rather than increase the school tax levy?" The answer is: no, at least not directly. I wrote about the intersection of abatements & school funding back in 2015; this current moment has been foreseeable for years, unfortunately our elected are only now...Continue reading
I've created this infographic as part of the 4th post of my 4-part series about the School Tax Rate in Jersey City. The municipality's growth is a factor in the underfunding of our public schools. There is a domino effect at work; city growth is ahead in the line of dominos, and our kids being...Continue reading
This is the third 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. To read the first post in the series, click here and to read the second post, click here. Talking about taxes going up is...Continue reading
This is the second 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. To read the first post in the series, click here. “How does Jersey City’s school tax rate compare with the rest of New...Continue reading
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...Continue reading
I spoke with reporter Briana Vannozzi in late June regarding our June 26th City Council action, when we delivered our #JCPSMailboxCampaign letters to council representatives and also stood behind students while they addressed Council. The NJTV news report is below and includes other perspectives including JCPS Teacher John Flora and BOE President Sudhan Thomas.
The education team of Jersey City Together has been researching to understand, in concrete terms, the process by which City Council can allocate funds to JCPS. I’m a member of that team so wanted to share: 1) NJ law NJSA 40:48-17-1 allows the municipality to allocate surplus funds to the public schools. Sharing that below....Continue reading
I wanted to share some civic questions that can be asked on the record or included in an email to the BOE. Why did five of Board of Education trustees approve a budget that included an incorrect tax base number? I wrote about this error in detail here, but to quickly recap: the Jersey City...Continue reading
I am a team member with Jersey City Together and a leader on the JC Together education advocacy team. I co-wrote with this op-ed with Dr. Jyl Josephson and Rev. Dr. Alonzo Perry, Sr. about Jersey City’s school funding crisis. No Way to Run a World Class School District
The Jersey City Board of Education used an incorrect tax base value in its budget presentation. It then based its estimated per-homeowner school tax increase estimates on that error. This NJ.com report gives the initial report of the error: “The 2019-20 budget will increase the school tax levy by 10 percent to $136.5 million. The school...Continue reading
Jersey City’s Board of Education is emphasizing a “10%” school tax levy increase as if that’s a big jump. Except 10% isn’t a big dollar-for-dollar jump, when you look at the entire picture. In actuality, 10% is way too small, given the fiscal hole we’re in as a district. A simple example can illustrate how...Continue reading
This is part of a series about the 2019/20 proposed municipal and schools budgets in Jersey City. Jersey City’s proposed 2019/20 municipal budget shows that over $120 million in PILOT fees are expected to be collected in in the coming year. What is notable about PILOT fees is that they don’t contribute to the school...Continue reading
Every municipality must pay for services that are then consumed by its residents. These services include: Police force (eg the JCPD) Fire department Road maintenance for city roads (a note on roads...in Jersey City, Ocean Avenue, Eerie Street, and Manhattan Avenue are city roads, thus they are maintained with city funds...however JFK Boulevard is a...Continue reading
Every municipality is funded by a mix of income streams, including: Property taxes (everyone pays property tax...you either pay it directly if you're a property owner, or you pay it to your landlord. Your rent includes the cost of property tax) State Aid Local Revenues - these are user-fee income streams like marriage licenses, pet...Continue reading
Check out prior visualizations here that I'm sharing as part of the 2019/20 budget cycle. This visualization shows multiple lenses into the proposed 2019/20 "advertised appropriations" within Jersey City's public schools, as reported by the Jersey City Board of Education here. This budget has been prepared by the district administration and a finalized version, after...
As we look towards the coming weeks and months, two local governing bodies are undergoing a public budgeting process: The Board of Education will be determining the 2019/20 schools budget. The city of Jersey City will be determining the 2019 municipal budget. A key question is: how can taxpayers engage? How can we peel back...
This "tree map" shows the 2018/19 appropriations (i.e. expenses) for Jersey City Public Schools. I downloaded the data from the NJ Department of Education website, created a subset of "Appropriations" showing total spending, and then removed subtotals and totals so that only detailed lined items are visualized. Jersey City will lose $27 million in state...Continue reading
This bubble chart shows 2017 actual spending within Jersey City's public schools, as reported by the 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report ("CAFR"); 2017 is the most recent year available for this report. The CAFR is an annual report detailing both qualitative and quantitative information about the district. It is prepared by the district, approved by...
Governor Murphy released his proposed fiscal year (FY) 2019/20 budget for NJ and this week, and it included a re-allocation of state education aid. The impact to Jersey City was both expected and gut-wrenchingly sobering: a $27 million cut in “Adjustment Aid”, a type of excess state aid that Jersey City has been receiving for...
This article is about Jersey City’s public schools funding crisis. If you’re unfamiliar with this issue, you can read more about it here. I’ve been attempting to de-puzzle some of the tax math that is vexing Jersey City with respect to its public school funding crisis, and have found three factors that deserve public scrutiny...Continue reading
How can taxpayers ensure that local municipal and county governments are keeping property taxes fair and balanced? One suggestion: make sure that assessed values, i.e. the value of properties on the tax rolls, fairly reflect market values. One way we can do that is to refer to the annual equalization ratio, also known as “the...Continue reading
This is a quick initial post to point taxpayers to an excellent resource for rich, official public data about our public schools here in NJ. The NJ Department of Education (NJ DOE) has, for at least the past 10 years, published a host of different datasets on its “DOE Data & Reports” page. The data...Continue reading
Jersey City Public Schools Funding Crisis Based on the state funding formula, Jersey City Public Schools are currently $100 million under-funded. Jersey City students, parents, teachers, and staff experience this under-funding everyday. This is a structural deficit and a threat to our school system, our city, and our community. Get the facts, connect in community,...Continue reading
This started out as a Facebook post on my CivicParent Facebook page. I’ve turned it into a quick post, for posterity & to help explain some of the financial mechanics of Jersey City’s under-funding crisis. “Jersey City’s public schools under-funding is a structural problem” – what does this mean, exactly? Here’s one way to look...Continue reading
The NJ Department of Education publishes annual data relating to certain “student groups”, per school. The table below focuses on three groups that, per state funding law, are entitled to more funding based on the level of need. These groups are: At-risk students, defined as lower income students who qualify for free or reduced lunch...Continue reading
This is a property tax dashboard for NJ residents who may be interested in learning about the property tax profile of their municipality, including: 1) Latest available (Tax Year 2017) property tax metrics available from NJ’s Property Tax portal. 2) Tax base growth chart from 1988 to 2017 – how has your town’s tax base...
In this post I’m sharing statewide special education data, with ability to drill into Jersey City special education data specifically, for both Jersey City Public Schools (the public school system) and charter schools attended by Jersey City students. I am sharing the statewide data because it’s informing to see the varying degrees of special education...Continue reading
The charts below show enrollment data for Jersey City Public Schools. The Jersey City Public Schools system is the 39-school district under the purview of the Jersey City Board of Education (BOE) and is funded through taxpayer dollars. Public charter schools also receive taxpayer dollars, but they are operated and overseen independently of the JC...Continue reading
Jersey City Public Schools is the city’s largest public good, funded through a combination of state, local, and to a lesser degree, federal tax dollars. In 2018/19 the public schools budget was over $600 million; this is larger than the city’s entire budget. The schools are a public good because they educate the vast majority...Continue reading
To help parents and taxpayers understand (a) what schools are in their neighborhood and/or (b) which elected representatives are tied to which schools, I’ve mapped all 40 Jersey City Public Schools (along with accompanying basic profile information, as listed on the JCPS Website) against 2 map layers: Jersey City Ward (each ward is represented by a...Continue reading
For the past 4 years I’ve been researching and writing about property taxes and revaluation (among other topics) on CivicParent. In the past year I’ve also written about tax appeals and I also served on a team of Jersey City Together volunteers in 2017 that helped over 30 residents save over $40,000 in tax expense...