Home News Jersey City News

No new taxes again

Fulop introduces $572M election year budget

STEADY AS SHE GOES – Municipal taxes won’t rise this year under a budget introduced by the City Council on March 22.

Although Jersey City taxpayers may start singing a different tune in 2018 after the state-mandated revaluation of properties kicks in, they can breathe a sigh of relief because the 2017 municipal budget will have no tax increase.
For the fourth year in a row, the Fulop administration has introduced a no new tax budget at the City Council meeting on March 22 as outlined by Mayor Steven Fulop during his recent State of the City addresses.
The 2017 budget holds taxes flat for a fourth consecutive year following a 2.13 percent tax reduction in 2014, the first Fulop administration budget year.
When the City Council introduced the $572 million budget, it began the long process of review that will eventually lead to the adoption of the budget at some point in May or June.
The good news comes during an election year, when taxes are usually one of the key issues. Fulop is running for reelection in November, and this budget may help deflect some of the expected questions in regards to policies on abatements, redevelopment, and hiring.
The Fulop administration has come under fire for a lack of vision in regards to abatements, in which the city collects more than it would in conventional taxes, but allows – under provisions of state law – developers not to have to pay school taxes.
While the Jersey City school district currently gets a huge subsidy from the state in aid, these policies are expected to be reviewed, and it is possible Jersey City may lose aid in the future. The abatements that allow the city to thrive now, may later come back to haunt the city if state school aid is diminished.
The state has also ordered Jersey City to conduct a revaluation of its property. This means that assessments will dramatically change next year. While historically, revaluations tend to raise the value on about one third of the property, reduce assessments on one third and leave about one third unchanged, owners of older and unabated properties are likely to see a significant increase. The reevaluation is expected to be concluded by November, and will affect the 2018 budget.

Fiscal stability

Although the 2017 budget is about $22 million higher than the 2016 budget, Fulop said the increase in spending was offset by increases in hotel tax collections, municipal court fines, and revenue from tax abatements. Taxes on local property account for about $228 million of the total budget.
”We have been steadfast in our commitment to keep taxes stable in Jersey City, while also delivering more services, and better services, for our residents.” – Steven Fulop.
Fulop said the budget will also reflect about $623,000 in new Open Space Trust Fund taxes that were approved last November by referendum.
Local property owners pay $3.66 per $1,000 of assessed value for the city tax rate, although the school and county budgets also contribute an amount that residents must pay overall. Currently, the average residential assessment in Jersey City is $93,500. This assessed average will, however, drastically change next year once the revaluation is complete.
Fulop said additional good news in his quest for long-term fiscal stability is the fact that the city has also received three consecutive credit rating upgrades, two by Moody’s and one by S&P.
“We have been steadfast in our commitment to keep taxes stable in Jersey City, while also delivering more services, and better services, for our residents,” said Fulop. “We have implemented sound fiscal planning that has been repeated year after year and has been validated by outside organizations, and while we know there is more to do, Jersey City is moving in the right direction.”
In addition to cutting costs and keeping taxes stable, the 2017 budget will include the hiring of an additional 50 police officers, as well as the continued expansion of recreational programming, senior services and park investments. This year, the administration will also begin the process of building a new police district in the East District and the North District, as well as a municipal parking lot on Central Avenue. And for the fourth year in a row, the Jersey City Summer Works program will place nearly 1,000 Jersey City students in summer jobs and internships.

Significant revenue increases

A government budget has two main parts, revenues and expenditures. Revenues can come from a variety of sources, including state and federal aid, grants for programs, and the tax levy from local property owners. Smaller amounts come from construction fees, service charges, and tax abatements. The more alternative revenues financing a budget, then less it must rely on taxes.
Fulop said the budget reflects numerous areas of cost savings.
Property tax ratables increased over the last year by approximately $136 million. Hotel occupancy tax revenue went up 10 percent, approximately $700,000 (which does not include the two new hotels opening this year). Parking lot tax revenue was up 9 percent, approximately $700,000. Municipal Court fines were up $2.2 million even without the dreaded red light camera system which was discontinued in 2015.
Building permit fees were up by $1.8 million from 2015. The city received a $1 million increase in revenue from the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority. Revenue from tax abatements saw a spike of $11 million. The city also generated $8 million from sale of land.
Fulop took credit for the $136 million increase in the tax base, saying this was the result of encouraging economic investment throughout the city. In four years, the tax base has grown by $415 million, with Jersey City having the largest municipal tax base in the state.
Related to this, Fulop said job creation has been at the forefront of his policy initiatives, resulting in bringing in more than 7,000 jobs to Jersey City over the last three and half years Some of these are related to the massive residential construction underway in the city, including 10,000 new units done or under construction with 16,000 more already approved. He said more than 650 new small businesses opened in Jersey City during that time.
Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

Exit mobile version