City proposes new tax to fund the arts

Jersey City could become the first city in NJ with an Art and Culture Trust Fund

Jersey City could vote to provide more funding for the arts on a November ballot question.
×
Jersey City could vote to provide more funding for the arts on a November ballot question.

This November, Jersey City residents could get another referendum question on the ballot, which could establish a trust fund for the arts.

Should it be approved by the people in November, the new Arts and Culture Trust Fund would create a funding source for nonprofit arts organizations in Jersey City.

According to an announcement by Mayor Steven Fulop, the new Arts and Culture Trust Fund would support funding exclusively for local artists and arts education through a maximum tax rate of $0.02 per $100 of assessed property value.

The program will mirror the city’s Open Space Trust Fund enacted by referendum under the Fulop Administration in 2016, which the city announced last year would pay out $3 million in citywide park improvements and upgrades.

According to the city, for the past two years the mayor has worked with the Jersey City Arts Council (JCAC) to lobby state legislators to implement the mechanisms that would allow long-term arts funding.

The JCAC is a nonprofit, launched in 2016, dedicated to protecting, strengthening, and promoting the arts in Jersey City.

‘Vital to the fabric of Jersey City’

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji led the effort at the state level to draft the Assembly Arts Bill to help all municipalities statewide achieve this goal. Both the New Jersey Assembly and Senate passed the bill before the governor signed it into law in December 2019.

“We all believe that in order for arts and culture to thrive here, it is important to build new and sustainable models for funding,” Fulop said. “That’s why we stepped up to the plate when no one else did, to make sure we can financially support the creative and cultural activities for our residents and children now and for future generations to learn and enjoy.”

According to the city’s announcement, Hudson County is one of the lowest funded areas for the arts across the state. The Arts Trust Fund would be the first time any city in New Jersey took such actions.

“Arts are vital to the fabric of Jersey City, and this tax will help our organizations sustain programming,” said Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey. “For less than the cost of a movie ticket, we can support the local arts organizations to help them thrive while providing an array of entertainment opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy, ranging from art galleries to stage productions and more.”

As the most diverse city in the nation, Jersey City is home to a vibrant arts scene that has grown significantly in recent years with cultural programming and events highlighting the city’s arts community and honoring its rich cultural history.

In 2013, funded by a Clean Communities Grant, Jersey City launched the citywide Jersey City Mural Arts Program, which links established and emerging local, national, and international mural artists with property owners as part of a beautification program that transforms Jersey City into an outdoor art gallery.

Per the referendum, the tax revenue will be used to directly support creative cultural activities, including performance, visual, fine arts, music, dance, graphic design, film, digital media, video, architecture, urban design, humanities, literature, arts and culture education, historic preservation, museum curation, crafts, and folk arts.

“Jersey City has long been home to some of the most skilled and progressive artists in the state,” said Chair of the Jersey City Arts Council Heather Warfel Sandler, “We are excited about the potential to finally support our artists with sustainable funding, and for the public to recognize that the arts are an essential element of society.”

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.