After about four months since its initial introduction and an hour-long reading by the Deputy City Clerk, the Jersey City Council adopted the city’s new $724.8 million budget at a special Oct. 18 meeting, which comes with a 50 percent increase to the municipal tax levy.
The budget is overall a $104 million increase from last year’s budget, and the tax levy is increasing by $111.7 million to $335.3 million. Because of the increase to the levy, it will lead to a .082 percent tax rate, and in turn increase property taxes by about $1,188 based on a $461,925 property value.
According to the budget, the biggest items that the city will be spending on are $106.9 million on police salary and wages, and $101.4 million for employee group health insurance.
The budget will pile on more tax increases in the city after the Board of Education adopted a $973 million budget that came with an average $1,611 tax increase per household.
No public comments were made on the budget. Before casting their votes, a number of council members voiced criticism of the upcoming tax increase. Councilman Yousef Saleh said that they were being asked to make a “Sophie’s choice” between increasing taxes and causing furloughs and layoffs.
“We can’t continue to squeeze blood from a stone,” he said. “In this city, the taxpayers are hurting, and we criticize the Board of Education for the tax increases, and here we are. I don’t feel good about this vote, I just want everyone to know that because essentially, we’re going to be raising taxes on ourselves and it’s going to hurt the most vulnerable.”
Councilman Rich Boggiano also said that he was “tired of paying taxes”, and said that a number of neighbors told him that morning that they were “furious and they’re blaming us here on the council for this.”
“No, we’re in a crisis here in the city, and next year, it’d better get straightened out,” he said. “I’m going to be around for three more years, and I’m not keeping my mouth shut no more.”
Councilman James Solomon also called the budget “unacceptable,” saying that they were so many months overdue that he had to play detective to find out what was going on. “It’s a collective failure,” he said. “We didn’t do enough oversight; [the] administration produced a poor budget.”
The budget was ultimately adopted 7-2, with Solomon and Councilman Frank Gilmore voting against it.