Over the last six years, I have had the privilege of being your Mayor, in which capacity I am responsible for the municipal tax portion of the bill. Several different branches of elected government are part of a tax bill, including taxes from the elected school board, the elected county government, and, of course, municipal government. Our administration is aware of the burdens high taxes can place on families. In addition to the schools, city, and county taxes, residents have taxes at the state and federal level as well. It is for this reason our team has worked hard to control the municipal portion of your taxes – the part our administration has direct control over.
When I took office in 2013, the city had been plagued by tax increases for years. I set out to change this pattern, which was a burden to you, the taxpayers. While most municipalities throughout the state have had steady annual increases, in Jersey City, we have had five consecutive years without a tax increase while still earning four credit rating upgrades. This year, on the municipal side of government, we will be implementing a 2-percent increase for local taxes to support and sustain the myriad of services and infrastructure necessary to continue to transform into the best mid-sized city in the country. After five years of flat to decreased taxes, we think a modest 2-percent increase is reasonable to support our growing city and additional needs.
We have worked hard to utilize innovative funding strategies to expand and enhance services and programs citywide and will continue to provide the quality services residents deserve. One example of how we have diverted away from asking you to dig deeper into your pockets for funding is the payroll tax for non-local residents on corporations. To be clear, this is a tax not paid by the employees, and will largely not impact the small businesses that hire locally. The important part is that 100-percent of all funds collected are going directly to our schools currently suffering from crippling state funding cuts. In its first year, we have been able to save teachers’ jobs and support the schools that are so crucial to our children’s growth and future success.
Our Public Safety Department is one of many examples where strategic investments are paying off. We have grown our police department to its largest size in nearly three decades and the largest fire department in ten years. We have hired over 430 new police officers since I took office, and are more strategically deploying officers as you have likely witnessed with increased foot patrols and community-oriented policing. As a result, we have seen the largest drop in violent crime for any time period in the last 40 years in our city.
While you and your family’s safety continues to be my top priority, we have also worked to enhance the quality of life for all by expanding our transportation options, recreation programs, health services, arts programming, and green spaces. You can see this taking shape at your local parks – most of which are being renovated, expanded, or newly built. We now see development spanning the entire city as we move forward with a new Jersey City museum on the way, two new Jackson Square buildings, and many other large investments. Some worth highlighting include the first city-owned, on-demand transit system in the state, the largest mixed-income development in the region on the city’s West Side with the Bayfront Redevelopment Project, and the list goes on.
With so much happening in our city, I want to take this opportunity to thank you. It is the residents who make Jersey City the diverse, progressive city it has become. I look forward to working with each and every one of you to build upon the progress we’ve made so far.