Councilmen Solomon and Lavarro Call for City to Dedicate Local Marijuana Tax to Jersey City Public Schools

Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro wants a special election for the Board of Education seat vacated by Matt Shapiro last month. Lavarro cites a legal opinion by the Jersey City Department of Law, which states that the vacated seat should be filled after this year’s November election.

 

Councilmen Solomon and Lavarro Call for City to Dedicate Local Marijuana Tax to Jersey City Public Schools

Urging Jersey City to vote “Yes” on State Public Question #1, legalizing marijuana in NJ

JERSEY CITY, NJ — With the City of Jersey City and Jersey City Public School (JCPS) facing a 2021 budget that will almost certainly be worse than 2020, Ward E Councilman James Solomon and Councilman At-Large Rolando Lavarro are calling for Mayor Fulop and the entire City Council to dedicate any revenues generated by a local marijuana tax to the Jersey City Public Schools.

Should New Jersey voters pass state public question #1 this November, they will amend the Constitution and legalize the use of marijuana. The question in part reads: “If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.” Both councilmen support the measure and are urging voters to vote “Yes” on state public question #1.

JCPS is grappling with a budget crisis. In 2018, the State cut funding to JCPS by $25 million per year for seven years, a cumulative reduction in state aid that will amount to $175 million. While a payroll tax enacted in 2018 has filled the initial shortfall, the funding gap grows wider with each passing year. With COVID-19 shutting businesses down, resulting layoffs and furloughs, employer payrolls have declined sharply, thereby substantially reducing payroll tax collections.  Prognosticators expect 2021 to be worse when federal and state government lift moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.

In 2019, Councilman James Solomon, with Councilman Lavarro’s support, proposed reserving $7M for the Jersey City Public Schools. In 2020, the two Councilmen sought to reprogram $1 million from the City budget to JCPS. Each effort to allocate funds to JCPS was rejected by Mayor Fulop and his City Council enablers.

This past year, in the midst of a pandemic, the Jersey City School Board approved a budget that included a substantial increase in the school levy. The 2020 increase resulted in a 39% tax levy increase and $53 million in additional revenues for the schools.

In his call for the dedication of the local marijuana revenues, Councilman James Solomon said, “Funding our public schools is essential to building a fair and equal city for all. Ensuring tax revenue from marijuana is used for that purpose, and not political patronage, is extremely important.”

In supporting Councilman Solomon’s request, Councilman Rolando Lavarro stated, “I have repeatedly said, ‘Show me your budget, and I’ll show you your priorities.’ With a local marijuana tax, we can do just that, providing a stable, dedicated funding source to our public schools, our students and their families, who have endured much turmoil and uncertainty over the past several years.”

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