“Do Not Stand Idly By” Campaign Inspired Me to Add Gun Control Activist Investing to My Equities Lecture

Today I attended a press conference with New Jersey Together where Governor Murphy signed on with the Metro IAF Do Not Stand Idly By campaign (note: NJ Together is an affiliate of Metro IAF). I was there with others from St. Aedan’s: the Saint Peter’s University Church to support NJ Together’s involvement in the event. […]

School Funding & Property Tax 202: The School Tax Levy

This is part of series about school funding, property tax, and community in Jersey City. To read other posts in this series, click here.  In my previous post, I wrote about the tax base: what it is, how we can find its value in public records, and how Jersey City’s value compares with other towns […]

School Funding & Property Tax 201: The Tax Base

This is part of series about school funding, property tax, and community in Jersey City. I’m learning about Jersey City’s tax base, tax levies, and property tax profile so that I can better understand our school funding paradigm. I’m sharing with the community, through this platform, as I learn. To read see the full series, […]

“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 […]

NJ Property Tax Dashboard | #OpenData #DataViz

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Property Revaluation Update: 202 out of 206 Homes on Neptune Ave in Greenville #JerseyCity were Over-Taxed.

I’ve got another Revaluation update, this one focused on Neptune Avenue which is an East/West street that stretches pretty much across Jersey City’s south Greenville neighborhood.  Similar to other Greenville Revaluation-related updates, this is a story of systemic overtaxation that is being fixed with Revaluation. First, some high level details about the data. Appraisal Systems’ […]

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 […]

Updated: Jersey City Abatements from 2016 User Friendly Budget. Mapped by Project Type & Ward.

If you are new to the topic of abatements, I recommend my tax abatement series here including my 2015 article,”Jersey City PILOTs Rob Funding from the School System.“ This post is a refinement of my previous “Mapping Jersey City Abatements By Project Type and Ward” post.  I wanted to update the data, and the map, to show […]

Quick Analysis: Tax Expense Change on the West Side, south of Lincoln Park

February 27, 2018.  Appraisal Systems released a new batch of assessments this morning and I was most curious about tax change in systemically over-taxed areas.  I was hoping streets in Country Village would be listed because, per estimates released by Jersey City in December 2017, Country Village is expected to see the largest dollar-for-dollar tax […]

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 […]

Why Property Revaluation is a Social Justice Imperative in Jersey City

Jersey City property taxes, as seen through state compliance data: Jersey City’s last citywide revaluation was in 1988. Jersey City’s 2017 equalization ratio is 23.66%. Jersey City’s 2017 coefficient of deviation is 35.66%. On this map: Green = under-taxed |  Red = over-taxed NJ property tax law is based on this foundational premise: assessed values are supposed […]

Who/What/When/Where/Why of Property Revaluation

WHO conducted Jersey City’s property revaluation? In 2016 Jersey City hired Appraisal Systems, Inc. for $4.4 million to conduct the revaluation. Here are some helpful links about the firm: ASI’s website page for Jersey City residents here. ASI’s generic powerpoint that explains the Revaluation process is here. This is an excellent overview of the general process. […]

Love, Hope, & Dignity: A Summit on Immigrant Justice, Advocacy, & Solidarity

On Saturday September 30th from 10am to 2pm St. Aedan’s – The Saint Peter’s University Church sponsored an event on immigration titled “Love, Hope, and Dignity: A Summit on Immigration Justice, Advocacy, and Solidarity”.  Our goals for the Summit included sharing information, helping provide information to the community, listening to those who are worried, and strengthening our […]

Jersey City Together Helped Homeowners Save $40,000+ via Tax Appeal Workshops

Jersey City Together Tax Appeal Workshop. In March 2017 I worked with a team of Jersey City Together leaders to provide a tax appeals workshop.  We invited homeowners to meet with us to determine if their homes were over-assessed which, in turn, helped us determine if they were over-taxed. It was a cooperative civic action involving […]

Fulop Era Abatements Approved from 2013 to 2016

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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! […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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? […]

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 […]

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 & […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]