The "User Friendly Budget," part 6: What drives my property tax bill? (UFB, Page 1)

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 whatever the “average” assessed value of the home in your town is. And, “assessed” value is not necessarily “market” value; ...

Let's get civic, Montclair!

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. The hope is that, coming out of this webinar, taxpayers feel more confident and empowered to explore local finance using ...

Jersey City's 2021 Municipal Budget -- A postscript...and some closing notes around transparency & process improvement

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 constructive thoughts around how the city could improve things going forward, at least from the perspective of an outside/taxpayer experience ...

Jersey City 2021 Budget: A focus on expense (including: structural expense is up $13 million this year)

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 pointed questions I’ve gotten around the city budget are: “what is the biggest expense?” and “how much does the city spend ...

Jersey City 2021 Budget: A focus on revenues (including how the city is achieving a property tax cut)

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.  Several questions I’ve gotten around the city budget are: “how is the city funded?” and “what percentage of the budget ...

Jersey City 2021 Budget: 160 abatements on city's books; visualizations on abatement type, value, PILOTs, and taxes if billed in full

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.  One question I’ve gotten around the city budget is: “how much tax money goes to abatements each year?”  We can ...

Jersey City 2021 Budget: Dig into budget using keyword search

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 balanced? How much of the budget is dependent upon traffic/parking violations? The third question is a good pivot to interactive ...

In one chart: Jersey City's seismic change in tax levies fully funds the schools and reallocates property tax

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 based on four key insights; we'll use the graph below as a pictorial guide through the fiscal nuance. The chart ...

Initial thoughts on Jersey City's Municipal 2021 Budget Press Release

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 city’s finance page, is not yet available). I generally don’t pay much attention to press releases, but this one was ...

Garden State Property Tax Viewer - Rates, Levies, Bases - for 2020

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 simple visualizations on top of the datasets published by the NJ Department of Community Affairs (the raw data is available ...

CivicParent NJ Property Tax Viewer: 2020 Levies

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 Property appeals data Property parcel data and more. What I’m sharing below is a basic view of the local levies ...

Tax Abatements 801: We need better abatement disclosures in NJ to show impact on public schools

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 2015 – was a welcome and needed first step to increase transparency, but more is needed and local governments can ...

The "User Friendly Budget", part 5 & Tax Abatements 701 - Abatement disclosures in the UFB

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 contracts, and there are terms within each that require compliance. In light of this update, I thought it would be ...

CivicParent NJ Property Tax Viewer - 2019 Levies

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 Property parcel data and more. What I’m sharing below is a basic view of the local levies for each municipality ...

The “User Friendly Budget”, Part 4b: Public Health & Public Safety (with Focus on Police) Spending in the Garden State

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 UFB's table of contents. This is a follow-up post to my previous post about how to dive into your city ...

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