“Jersey City Public Schools are *Structurally* Underfunded”…What does this mean?

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 … Read more

Jersey City & NJ: Student Group Data from NJ School Performance Reports (A Focus on ELL, At-Risk, and Special Education Students)

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 … Read more

NJ Special Education Statistics | #DataViz #OpenData

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 … Read more

Jersey City: How Your City Council Voted on Tax Abatements

Shown below are details about abatements that City Council President Rolando Lavarro voted for between the time period July 2013 and August 2016. By sharing this data, the aim is to better inform the public about the scope and impact of the Council’s abatement votes. More to come about other Council representatives’ abatement voting records.

Jersey City Public Schools – A Public Good Requiring Public Funding

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 … Read more

Jersey City: Who in City Council & the NJ State Legislature Represents Your School?

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 … Read more

Jersey City Property Tax Appeals: A Civic Step-by-Step Overview

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 … Read more

Jersey City Property Tax Appeals: A Civic Overview

In December 2017 I shared how to determine if your new assessment is fair or not. In this post I’m adding new information, including a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), about the appeals process. Property tax appeals in Jersey City are due June 18th, 2018. This means: you must file your appeal by June 18th.  The … Read more

Jersey City Funding Crisis: Banked Cap, Explained

Jersey City Public Schools: CivicParent Funding FAQs I have been trying to understand how Jersey City Public Schools are funded and am sharing questions I’ve endeavored to answer. As I learn, I’m sharing with the community in the hopes others will also learn and advocate. Where applicable I’ve provided citations and resources so that anyone … Read more

Country Village Revaluation Update: $3+ Million Estimated Tax Expense Reduction (and counting…)

March 18 2018.  Appraisal Systems released a new batch of assessments on March 16th – the same day Jersey City’s public school teachers went on strike.  So…this latest update wasn’t covered in the news.  It should be though; finally, Country Village homes are listed.  Per estimates released by Jersey City in December 2017, Country Village … Read more

#JerseyCity #Revaluation Update: Society Hill Highlighted

Updated: Feb 19, 2018.  Appraisal Systems today published on its website an updated assessments file with about 1,950 new properties added (note: I won’t be updating this page with every single new release from Appraisal Systems…but I have a property tax workshop tonight at Our Lady of Mercy Church and I wanted to be equipped … Read more

Jersey City 2017 Sales for Class “2” (1-4 Family) Properties, Mapped

This post is part of my effort to share information about Jersey City’s Property Revaluation.  I wrote a Revaluation series last year which you can read  here.   In a citywide revaluation, your new assessment should equal your market value.  When establishing market value of your home, one set of data that can be useful is … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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. … Read more

Op-Ed Follow-Up: Get the Facts & Figures About Abatements & Public School Funding in Jersey City

I teamed up with Ellen Simon to co-author an op-ed in The Jersey Journal about how Jersey City’s PILOT policy harms our public schools. The article is dense with facts, figures, and assertions. To ensure our assertions are as accessible as possible to the public, I’ve created a landing page to help readers sort through the … Read more

Jersey City Revaluation: Interactive Map Now Available from ASI, Inc.

Jersey City is undergoing a multi-month Revaluation process and appraisal firm ASI, Inc. is currently assessing all properties throughout the city.  I wrote about the April 3rd Ward “A” revaluation presentation, hosted by ASI, Inc, and one promise from that meeting: that an interactive assessment map would be made available. Good news – that map is now available! … Read more

Jersey City Revaluation: Intro from ASI Inc, the firm doing the Revaluation

I attended the Ward “A” revaluation meeting on April 3rd and had a chance to listen to a representative from Appraisal Systems, Inc., the third-party appraisal firm hired by Jersey City to conduct the revaluation.  Mark Duda presented; he is an ASI executive and the designated ASI “project manager” for Jersey City’s revaluation. ASI, Inc. is one of … Read more

Fulop’s Spokesperson Wrong on Property Tax Appeals Logic

Steven Fulop’s press person, Jennifer Morrill, made an egregious error on the record this month when she characterized tax appeals as not being based on sales prices.  Tax appeals are, in fact, based explicitly on recent comparable sales prices. Ms. Morrill’s statement was in response to a story about a local resident, April Kuzas, who recently … Read more

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 … Read more

An Interview with Heather Darcy Bhandari: The Artist’s Contract for Jersey City’s Mural Program

Jersey City’s “Monopoly Mural” on Newark Avenue serves as a lens into Jersey City’s mural program, a fusion of private art and public space.  The 33-square foot mural was the work of local artist Mr. Abillity.  Mr. Abillity began painting the mural in late May, completed it in June, but by mid-July, the mural was gone. … Read more

An Analysis of 2015 Jersey City Property Sales – by Ward

This is a guest post from Jersey City resident and mortgage industry professional Susan Kulakowski.  Susan reached out to me after reading my last post, “Property Revaluation 501: Mapping & Color Coding Jersey City Home Sales by Assessment-Sales Ratio.”  She analyzed the map’s underlying data and provided a ward-specific lens into the upcoming property revaluation. She offered … Read more

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 … Read more

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, … Read more

Property Revaluation 301: Estimating Your Post-Revaluation Tax Bill

This is part of an ongoing series about property revaluation in Jersey City. Please note, an update given new state tax data reported in 2017: the 2016 equalized tax rate is reported to be 1.86%.  This is the best predictor of what the new tax rate will be, post-Revaluation.  I’ve been asked by a few people: “How … Read more

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 … Read more

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 – … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

Open Letter to City Council – Ordinance 14.136: Why Should Taxpayers Take on Variable Interest Rates?‏

I sent this letter to the City Council members this morning.  If you live in Jersey City and have similar concerns about funding variable interest rates, please feel free to copy/paste this letter and send from your own email account, or call your Council reps.  Contact info is provided below the letter.  Background on Open Letter On August … Read more

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? … Read more

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. … Read more

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 … Read more

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 & … Read more

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” … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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, … Read more

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+ … Read more

Civic Hacking with Open JC

Buckle up, Jersey City…the express train towards more transparent government is leaving the station…and its name is Open JC. Open JC Founded in November 2013 by local residents Anna Lukasiak and Stephen Musgrave, Open JC hit the ground running with its Facebook page, meet up group, and website, inviting anyone with an interest in open data, open source, and … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

Tax Abatements 101: A Basic Overview

Mayor Fulop signed his abatement policy into effect by executive order on December 24, 2013.  The policy was a clear departure from his campaign pledge, which included the promise to allocate abatement revenue to a “dedicated, non-discretionary account for education funding.”  This prompted me to question: how effective is the new abatement policy, and what impact will it have … Read more