Payment to the City of Hoboken from the development of 7 Seventy House at Seventh and Jackson streets has reignited a debate about school funding for the Hoboken Public School District and the city’s three charter schools.
770 Jackson St. was constructed as part of a 2016 Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT)a greement in which the developer committed to providing the city with $52 million worth of community givebacks, including the resiliency park at Seventh and Jackson streets, a playground, pedestrian plaza, underground flood infrastructure, 42 units of affordable housing, and new basketball gym.
The council adopted a resolution that authorized a portion of the payment from the PILOT received by the city go to the “Hoboken School District” becausethe district would not receive revenues from the taxes of the building due to the agreement.
The city’s three charter schools have raised concerns because, according to Mayor Ravi Bhalla,“The PILOT payment has no effect on funding to which the charter schools are entitled.”
“Traditional PILOT programs hurt all public schools, district and public charters alike, as they cut out property taxes that fund school budgets,” said Lauren Calmas of Hoboken Charter School, Nicole Cammarota of the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School, and Chris DeFilippis of Elysian Charter School in a joint statement. “In 2016, the Hoboken City Council admirably addressed this issue in the 770 Jackson PILOT by earmarking money for our Hoboken public schools. Excluding funding for all public charter school students now – four years after the resolution passed – would be both unfair and inequitable. We remain committed to working collaboratively for fair funding for our 1,000 public charter school students, their families and our staff. “
Bhalla says that the PILOT funding is specifically for the Hoboken Public School District.
“Charter schools are provided a payment each year from the Hoboken Public School District based strictly on a formula established by the State of New Jersey which is unaffected by any previous, current or future PILOT agreements,” he said. “In fact, if there is increased enrollment in any charter school as a result of additional children residing at 770 Jackson, the formula mentioned will result in additional funds being paid to that specific Charter school – a very different scenario than children residing at 770 Jackson attending the traditional public schools.”
The Hoboken Board of Education echoed the mayor’s comments in an email to constituents.
“Now that the building is online and payment from the City is due to the Hoboken Public School District, members of the City Council and members of the charter community are taking the position that the charter schools are entitled to a portion of this payment,” wrote the Hoboken Board of Education in an email to constituents. “Local elected Boards of Education are directed by the state to pay each charter school tuition for students enrolled from their respective municipalities. Simply put, granting monies from the PILOT payments for 770 Jackson Street to the charter schools ignores the legal process by which charter schools are funded in NJ. This isn’t an issue for the Hoboken City Council to determine, nor does it represent any cut or reduction in funding to the three charter districts.”
An online petition is circulating to ask the council to ensure that the funds remain with the Hoboken Public School District.
“The K-12 Hoboken Public School District includes over 3,400 students and employees, and is required to educate every child who enrolls, without limitation,” states the petition. “Please do not divert any funds from the PILOT payment for 770 Jackson away from this rapidly growing population.”
As of Oct. 17, the petition had 522 signatures.
Elysian Charter School countered that by being cut out, the city’s charter schools could lose millions.
“This is in direct conflict to our review of the city resolution with the City Council that states the public charters are eligible,” wrote Elysian Charter School on Facebook. “This action would have the effect of cutting out millions of dollars of funding to Hoboken’s charter schools over the next several years.”
In the post, signed by the school’s director, Susan Grierson, and DeFilippis, they ask for members of the community to write to the council and advocate for their “funding allocation as intended.”
The next virtual Hoboken City Council meeting is Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. It can be streamed live on the city’s Facebook page.