Having made schools funding reform the cornerstone of his gubernatorial campaign, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) this morning upbraided Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who just signed an executive order giving 10 percent of future tax abatement revenue to local public schools.
“Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop is at it again,” Ciattarelli said of his would-be rival to succeed Governor Chris Christie in Drumthwacket. “This week he boasted of growing the police and fire departments; expanding services for seniors; increasing city-wide open space; adding new recreation programs; and hiring more than 1,000 students. According to the Mayor, the best news was that Jersey City accomplished all this ‘without raising taxes.’ How can that be? The answer is revitalization.
“Despite Jersey City’s revitalization, however, it continues to have its greatest expense – public schools – paid for by taxpayers across the state,” the Republican added. “In fact, more than 70 percent of Jersey City’s school budget is paid for by state residents. A blatantly unfair and terribly flawed state school funding system is the reason, with Jersey City’s grossly generous state subsidy approximating half a billion dollars.”
Ciattarelli noted that by boasting that Jersey City will now share 10 percent of PILOT payments with Jersey City schools, the mayor – who bowed out of the 2017 gubernatorial contest last year and backed former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy – might “finally” be acknowledging the unfairness of purposely perpetuating his city’s dependence on state subsidies, “especially by way of crony real estate deals.”
“This new PILOT policy is such a small baby step forward it only adds insult to injury for taxpayers across the state, not to mention Jersey City residents who do not get the tax breaks,” Ciattarelli complained. “Considering that the vast majority of municipalities pay 70 percent or more for their schools through property taxes, Mayor Fulop’s offer of 10 percent is ridiculous, especially when underfunded school districts across the state are sacrificing library space to create more classrooms. I long for the day the Mayor stands up and boasts how Jersey City is no longer dependent on state subsidies. Until then, I will continue to advocate for reforming our current school funding formula and tax abatements.”