One month ahead of schedule, the City Council will vote Feb. 13 on the introduction of a new $612 million 2020-2021 Jersey City municipal budget, according to an announcement from Mayor Steven Fulop.
While the new budget would include expanded services such as increased investments in public safety, new affordable housing resources, and expanded health services, the budget will not increase municipal taxes, according to the mayor.
“For six out of the last eight years we have worked to create budgets with no tax increase, yet we continue to see progress at every level, an accomplishment few other cities in the state have done,” Fulop said. “We are introducing the budget earlier this year than ever before, in an effort to ensure adequate time to thoughtfully go through this process.”
According to Fulop, the city administration is presenting the council with the budget earlier than usual to “ensure we have the necessary time to work together and make structural changes.”
Last year, the council introduced a municipal budget in March and did not vote to adopt a final budget until a special council meeting the following August.
Last year’s adopted budget of nearly $599 million included a 2.18 percent tax hike.
Increased city services
According to the city, it has established an audit review team to ensure the city is operating at the highest efficiency at the lowest cost, and that the budget seeks new areas to generate revenue while restructuring several departments to help improve efficiency.
“While crafting this year’s budget, we analyzed every aspect to ensure the greatest efficiency without burden to the taxpayers,” said Business Administrator Brian Platt. “Jersey City is also leading the state in progressive initiatives with the introduction of the first city-run bus system to alleviate transit woes, the first to mandate an electric municipal fleet, the installation of solar panels and charging stations, among other innovative and cost-saving measures.”
According to the city, this latest budget looks to maintain and grow vital city services with new and enhanced affordable housing resources, public safety, youth development, widespread park improvements, and health services to name a few.
Budget highlights include increasing police department staffing to reach 1,000 officers; full staffing of all fire companies 24/7; more building and construction inspectors; better oversight and accountability for overtime across the city; restructuring the Department of Recreation and Youth Development to provide a wider range of programs for youth; expansion of the Housing Preservation Office; investments in more technology to improve city operations and services; establishing the Office of Affordable Housing to streamline services for residents; and an expanded Quality of Life Task Force to respond to community concerns.
“While creating our budget, we also recognized the Board of Education is struggling with their finances, and we want to make sure our children, parents, and teachers are top priority,” Fulop said. “In addition to the maximum funding we’re providing the schools through payroll tax revenue, we’re also working on a plan to fix the [school board] budget to help them dig out of this large deficit and set the path for future balanced budgeting.”
While specifics of that plan were not released, Fulop said the city recognizes that the school board will have a school tax increase as it faces an estimated $175 million loss in state aid over the next seven years, and “we are ready to work closely together with them on this front as they present their budget,” he said.
He said he and Councilman Michael Yun have been working with Parent Teacher Organizations throughout Jersey City to get more feedback and “make sure that we are all on the same page with regards to the future of the city, the schools, and our children.”
Last month, the council adopted a resolution, supported by Fulop, which places a referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot asking voters to decide if school board trustees should continue to be elected by the people, or can be appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council.