5-point plan to fill Jersey City school funding gap | Opinion

JERSEY CITY — The City Council on Tuesday is expected to vote on final adoption for a 1 percent payroll tax touted as relief for the citys underfunded public schools.

The tax plan is staunchly opposed by business owners and groups that say it would lead to an exodus of businesses from Jersey City and cause a burden on those that remain.

State Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham, a Democrat who co-sponsored the state bill that allows the city to levy a payroll tax, called the pushback to the plan “ludicrous” during a town hall meeting in Jersey City last week. Cunningham said a host of educational programs would be at risk if the payroll tax is not approved.

“We cannot afford to lose programs, we cannot afford to lose teachers, we cannot afford to take a chance on our children not having the option of being all that they can,” she said.

Newark is the only other city in New Jersey allowed to collect a payroll tax, one that brings in nearly $50 million annually. Jersey Citys tax, which would exempt the wages of Jersey City residents, would be allocated for the public schools only.

The tax was proposed by state lawmakers after they decided to eliminate a form of state school aid that was going to bring the Jersey City school district $175 million this year. Those cuts were approved by the state after years of complaints from officials in other parts of the state who said Jersey Citys share of aid is too generous.

Jersey Citys $600 million school budget is funded with $420 million in state aid and $124 million from local taxpayers.

The $175 million cut will come in stages over the next seven years. School officials believe the district will lose about $20 million in 2019-20.

Maria Nieves is president and CEO of the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the tax plan. Nieves told The Jersey Journal that the citys business community understands it has an interest in funding the school system, but she objects to the speed at which the city is moving to formalize the payroll tax.

“Its not as if the school systems here going to be out of pocket $175 million all in one fell swoop,” she said. “Weve got time.”

At the councils Monday caucus, Council President Rolando Lavarro pitched a separate plan that would implement a .75 percent payroll tax that would expire in December 2019, hike school taxes by as much as $6 million, dedicate revenue from new tax abatements to schools and more.

Mayor Steve Fulop on Twitter called Lavarros proposal “a bad idea” that represents “exactly what the developers asked and circulated as their wish list.”

The council meets Tuesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 280 Grove St. This weeks meeting will not be on Wednesday as usual because of Thanksgiving.

Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at tmcdonald@jjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.

“Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 20th, 2018 the Jersey City Municipal Council will vote on a measure to impose a Payroll Tax to help fund our public schools. While I fully understand schools may need more funding, we should look at other alternatives first such as cutting wasteful spending. As Jersey City continues to rise, we have to be business friendly and not hurt our small business owners. How is it fair to tax a small business owner because their employee(s) is not a city resident? I welcome everyone into our city and we can do better. I fully support all children in Jersey City and our businesses as well. Its sad when we have to put one against another.

We cant tax our way to a better city and I strongly oppose this payroll tax which will have a negative impact on Jersey Citys economy especially our small businesses on the South side of Jersey City.”

Posted in Jersey City