THE  BEGINNINGS OF THE FISCAL 2007 TAX INCREASE......

Jersey Journal,  November 24, 2006

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FISCAL YEAR 2006  BUDGET INCREASE:
 18% for the CITY +  9% for the COUNTY

 

 

Healy wants 'better way' in county budget burden

Jersey City taxpayers will be asked to dig even deeper in their pockets when the county unveils its 2006 budget on May 11,
according to financial projections obtained by The Jersey Journal.

The county tax rate in Jersey City is expected to rise by more than 9 percent—from $1,194 to $1,303 per $100,000 of
assessed property value. For a homeowner with a property assessed at $200,000, the increase means a jump
of $218 a year in county taxes.

News of the county's tax increase in Jersey City comes at a bad time for Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who is still dealing with the
political fallout from a significant municipal tax increase and a state-imposed school tax increase.

"I am simply not happy with it. It's pretty disturbing to me," Healy said. "We are paying for our success, but I am going to sit
down
with my financial advisers and see if we can't figure out if we can find a better way."

The overall Jersey City tax rate, including the county's projection and the new city and school tax rates, is expected to jump by
nearly 11 percent, from $4,605 to $5,133 per $100,000 of assessed value, according to The Jersey Journal's analysis.

Last year, a homeowner with a property assessed at $200,000 would have paid roughly $9,210. This year, after all the
 increases, the same homeowner will pay $10,266, according to the analysis.

The county plans to introduce its budget on May 11, but county officials handed out the financial projections during a discreet
April 24 meeting of business administrators and mayors from- all the towns in the county.

The documents show the county's overall budget is expected to increase by 4.6 percent — from about $213 million to more
than $223 million. The 4.6 percent increase was spurred by rising medical and pension costs for the county's 2,600 full-time
employees, said county spokesman Jim Kennelly.

"We've have taken great care to watch our spending, but there are some costs that we can't avoid," Kennelly said.

Of the Hudson County towns, seven will see decreases in their county tax rate, while the other five towns will see increases —

though none will see an increase as big as Jersey City's.

Jersey City taxpayers will be asked to pay nearly 90 percent of the increase in the county's budget, largely because of the city's
enormous financial growth has overwhelmingly outpaced the other Hudson towns.

"We're paying close to 90 percent of the increase, and that's unfair, and we are going to see what we can do," Healy said.

A number of Jersey City commercial and residential tenants will not feel the increase, because they are among
the number of people  living in tax-abated properties. Ironically, it's those tax-abated properties that have
contributed to the city's overall market value and therefore helped increase Jersey City's share of the tax burden.

Though abated properties are not included as part of the tax base, their existence has stoked the city's real estate market,
and thus the city's overall property value.

"These developers would not come and build here without these abatements, and they have helped make the city successful,
but you have to take the good with the bad," Healy said.

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Parents blast Epps for not joining suit

Wednesday, May 03, 2006
By KEN THORBOURNE
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

A group of Jersey City parents are accusing freshman state Assemblyman and Superintendent of Schools Charles T. Epps Jr.
of playing politics with next year's school budget.

The parents - allied with the nonprofit Statewide Education Organizing Committee - believe Epps isn't doing his job as
superintendent by not joining in a lawsuit to challenge Gov. Jon Corzine's proposal not to increase state aid to its poorest
districts. The parents claim he's trying to score political points with the governor.

"I think it should be more about the children than about politics," said Annie Hicklen, grandmother of two Snyder High School students. "We feel he should be able to fight for the schools."

To Keisha Harris, a School 17 parent, Epps is failing both as an assemblyman and a superintendent.

"He (Epps) said he wanted to go to be in Trenton and Jersey City to help us," Harris said. "Now is the time to use what you got."

The parents made their comments at an event in Newark, where they were supporting parents there fighting for a new school.
Twenty-two of the state's 31 so-called Abbott school districts have joined with the Newark-based Education Law Center to
sue the state over the lack of an aid increase.

Epps rejected the argument that not joining in the suit amounted to an abdication of his responsibilities as superintendent.

The state has called for a $7.5 million cut in aid to Jersey City, but Epps has submitted a budget calling for
roughly $25 million more than the $430.4 million in state aid the district received last year.

"And I think it will be approved," Epps said. "I'm waiting for a response. I don't know why everyone has jumped so fast."

Assemblyman Craig Stanley, D-Irvington, chairman of the Assembly's education committee, was also on hand for the Newark
event and called Epps's actions "curious."

"It's something I just don't understand," Stanley said, adding: "I think it's very important to keep one's elected position separate
from the position to which you're entrusted."

Epps said he had no idea what Stanley meant and declined to respond to his comments.

© 2006  The Jersey Journal
© 2006 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

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Read my lips: Now, new taxes

$423M budget will lead to 18 percent tax hike

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer -  Jersey City  Reporter - April 2, 2006



BUDGET APPROVED – The City Council approved this year’s $423 million budget,
eight months after the fiscal year began on July 1, 2005.

Jersey City's $423.2 million budget, passed 9-0 by the City Council on Wednesday, includes a $32 million
spending increase and will result in an 18 percent tax hike.

City Business Administrator Brian O'Reilly said the municipal potion of the overall tax rate should go up $3.62
per $1,000 of property, from $19.30 last year to $22.92.

That means that a taxpayer who owns $100,000 in property will see a rise from $1,930 in property taxes to
$2,292.

However, that is only the municipal portion. Residents are billed an overall amount that also includes county
taxes (decided each June) and school taxes (the budget is voted on during the school board election April 18).

Tax levy up $25M

Taxes are paid in four quarters during the year. The amount of tax levy on the city's residents for this fiscal year is
$130.4 million, an increase of $25 million for last year.

The school portion of the tax rate will go up from $13.18 to $13.99 per $1,000 ( a 6 percent increase) to compensate
for a 7.5 million decrease in state aid. The school tax levy is expected to rise to $79 million from approximately
$72 million last year.

The total tax rate will be calculated when the county passes their budget before July 1 after the state's budget is
approved.

The council commended O'Reilly, city budget director Kathy Dealy, and their respective staffs for working on what City
Council President Mariano Vega called the "most difficult budget" he has passed in his nine years on the council.

O'Reilly said that now, his office is looking to put together the fiscal 2007 budget as soon as late fall/early winter.
Municipal budgets in Hudson County are typically late. They run from each July 1 to the following June 30.

Better luck next year

The City Council sounded a relieved and somber tone over the adoption of a budget that will mean an added financial
burden
on the city's taxpayers. They had been warned much earlier that an increase was coming.

Ward C City Councilman Steve Lipski said the city will have to look for ways to cut spending for next year.

"When the general public tells us that certain agencies and divisions are not responding ...then we really have to
look at the usefulness of those departments," said Lipski. "And last but certainly not least for next year, I don't know
how many departments we have to look at cutting."

Council members said that the increase in the budget came from increases in police and fire department salaries
and overtime, city pensions, and city employee health care, amongst other costs.

Ward D Councilman Bill Gaughan pointed out that the rising healthcare costs will pose a problem for future budgets
based on their increases in past three years. He also looked for the budget to be introduced earlier.

O'Reilly said he wouldn't promise "pixie dust, but we'll promise you an earlier budget."

Vega said this was the "worst of times" since there are anticipated increases of the tax rates in the county and for
schools as well.

As early as possible
O'Reilly said in an interview last week that he spoke to Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who advised him to get the next
budget to the council as early as possible, maybe starting in early September.

The reason for the delay this year, according to City Council President Mariano Vega, was the city having to restructure
their debt and waiting for approval from the state. Restructuring the debt saved the city $19.5 million in debt service
payments now, but will cost future administrations and taxpayers more money in the long run.

Lazarus rises again
A public hearing on the budget was carried out with only one person commenting - none other than former deputy mayor
 92-year old Jerome Lazarus, a presence at each year's special meeting to introduce and adopt the municipal budget.

Lazarus pointed out that the budget was a "rather unusual one" because of the tax raise needed to fill what is now a
$25 million budget hole.

He also said that because the budgets have been late for nearly 15 years, if the city was even considering cutting
positions and salaries to reduce taxes, it would have very little time to do so in order to avoid a tax increase.

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Jersey City Council approves budget with 18 percent tax hike

 

Friday, March 31, 2006

By KEN THORBOURNE

JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

Feeling the people's pain the whole way through, the Jersey City City Council voted unanimously to adopt a budget
Wednesday night that enshrines an 18-percent hike in municipal taxes.

"We find our city, county, state and Board of Ed taxes all going up at once," said City Council President Mariano Vega,
alluding to a perfect storm of tax increases about to swamp city residents. "That's a tough thing to ask the public to accept."

The budget calls for raising $130.4 million to run city government - a $25 million boost in spending over last fiscal year.

For a property owner whose home is assessed at $100,000, the adopted budget will raise the municipal portion of taxes
from $1,913 per year to $2,285.

This is apart from an expected increase in county taxes later in the year and a hike in school taxes due to a $7.5 million
cut in aid from the state.

Council members complained that overtime costs in the city have become excessive and that the administration had given
 them a budget proposal with only a little more than three months left in the fiscal year, even as they praised the city's
 business administrator for engineering a bond sale that lopped off $25 million of what was a $50 million deficit.

"What scares me is where are we going," said Ward D Councilman William Gaughan, noting police and fire overtime costs
amounted to nearly $7 million.

Several council members blamed the budget blues on spiraling health costs and a drop in the income from tax-abated
properties.

But burnishing his reputation as the council's maverick, Ward E Councilman Steve Fulop identified a culprit: Mayor Jerramiah
 Healy.

Healy acted "irresponsibly" in handing the council a budget so late in the fiscal year, Fulop said.

"He's in charge," said Fulop. "Someone has to be accountable."

Healy fired back yesterday.

"I find Steve Fulop's comments to be disingenuous since he was not present for most of the departmental budget hearings,"
Healy said.

© 2006  The Jersey Journal

© 2006 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

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Tax hike looking like 18%

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

By KEN THORBOURNE

JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

Jersey City taxpayers are looking at an 18 percent property tax hike.

With three months left in the fiscal year, the City Council is expected to vote tonight to adopt a $130.4 million budget that
 includes the increase.

The new budget, roughly $25 million more than last year's, would raise taxes from $19.30 per $1,000 of assessed value
to $22.85 per $1,000 of assessed value, city officials said yesterday.

For a property owner whose home is assessed at $100,000, the taxes would jump from $1,913 per year to $2,285.

"Although there's a tax increase, the city managers did a good job reducing a $60 million (deficit) down to $25 million,
the net increase (in the budget)," said Business Administrator Brian O'Reilly.

But municipal taxes are just one piece of the puzzle.

Due to a $7.5 million cut in state school aid, the tax rate for schools will go from $1,318 per $100,000 of assessed value
to $1,399, O'Reilly said.

And there are also county taxes to contend with. The county budget hasn't been introduced yet and is not due until the
end of the year. The current county tax levy is $1,194 per $100,000 of assessed value.

The municipal budget introduced in December by Jersey City included a $50 million hole. But a debt refinancing plan,
plus some other cost-saving measures, shaved $25 million off that.

Tonight's meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 280 Grove St.

© 2006  The Jersey Journal

© 2006 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

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Residents blast potential tax increase

Twenty people give suggestions on $416M budget

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer -  Jersey City  Reporter

January 21, 2006


 
 
Members of the public told the City Council on Wednesday what they thought about the city's new $416 budget, which is likely to include a huge tax increase.

"The city is not living up to their fiduciary responsibility," complained resident and private accountant
Mia Scanga, as she detailed ways the city could save money.

The hearing drew 20 members of the public, which is a larger crowd than usual.

The spending plan is $23 million higher than last year's budget, and contains a $40 million gap that must be partially closed via a tax increase.

But the city approved a debt refinancing plan at the same meeting that is supposed to save $26 million in debt payments for this budget year, and a total of $112 million over the next five years. However, it will lead to more spending in the long run.

The council also recently conducted budget hearings with the police and fire departments to try to cut their spending. The police want $83 million, and the Fire Department is asking for $61 million. Both figures are up significantly from last year.
Residents' suggestions
 

The budget covers spending from last July through this coming June, but budgets in Jersey City are typically late.  Most years, the public hearing on the budget has been sparsely attended, with one person offering comment - 92-year-old Jerome Lazarus, former deputy mayor during the administration of Paul Jordan in the 1970s.

This year, Lazarus had company.    Jersey City Police Officer and resident Sean Connors suggested that the city look at vacant lots, which he said are only assessed at 10 percent of their value, and try to adopt legislation to collect more money from those lands.

He also asked if the city was going to collect large outstanding fines that have been levied on major property owners in the city, such as New Gold Equities, owners of 110 and 111 First St., and the Tawil Family, owners of dilapidated buildings near the Journal Square PATH train station.

Jerome Lazarus told the council that the hefty tax increase will hurt seniors like him. Lazarus estimated that 75 percent of the pending tax increase was reflected in the most recent quarter tax bill due on Feb. 1, a hefty increase for seniors to pay all at once.

"I make a suggestion to the council that they should pass a resolution authorizing the tax collector to accept installment payments over the next three months for ... any taxpayer who cannot meet such a payment," said Lazarus.

The pending tax increase has been projected to raise the overall tax rate from $46.06 per $1,000 of assessed value to an estimated $52.33 per $1,000. This includes county and school taxes. But a final rate has not yet been struck.

Lazarus also complained that this year's budget contained "one-time gimmicks" that won't return every year.

"Here in Jersey City, for 15 years, the taxpayers have been dependent on the mayors with one-time gimmicks to avoid tax lightning, and [now] tax lightning has struck," said Lazarus.

Lazarus cited, as one-time gimmicks, three things: tax abatement payments anticipated from new development projects to be constructed this year, onetime revenue from the sales of city property, and money saved from the debt restructuring plan.

Audit the parking lots ............... Twenty-four-year resident Scanga launched into a 40-plus minute presentation on the ills of the budget, conducting her own limited audit in public view.  Scanga scrutinized revenue sources such as the city's tax on commercial parking lots, which are assessed at 18 percent, and asked whether or not the city has done an audit on them. The city anticipates $5.14 million in revenues for the 2006 budget, over $200,000 less than what was received in 2005.   Business Administrator Brian O' Reilly said that the city has not done an audit, but instead checks financial reports that the individual lots provide.   That answer did not please Scanga.

"Considering that it's a $5.2 million line item to base it on sheer faith on a business that's predominately cash, and then they know they would never get audited - it's a joke," said Scanga. "The city is not living up to their fiduciary responsibility."

Forty-five more cops anticipated.....  Budget hearings by the City Council were held for the police on Jan. 9 and for firefighters on Jan. 11.  At the police budget hearings, various council members questioned Police Director Samuel Jefferson on how the budget went up from $80 million to $86 million.  Ward F City Councilwoman Viola Richardson asked about the number of new police officers who were coming on the force and the number of officers eligible for retirement.  There are currently 843 officers as of January 2006, with 45 new officers expected to join before the year ends.  There are also an estimated 170 officers who are eligible for retirement this year, as they have served at least 25 y ears.

The fire department hearings saw questions about the table of the organization in the fire department and why their budget had increased from $54 to $60 million. This was especially curious because overtime costs that were not expected to rise since more firefighters were hired in 2005.

Also, Ward D City Councilman Bill Gaughan was upset at the Fire Department for pushing for the city to accept a new $1.2 million fire boat from the federal government, because even if the boat is free, fueling and other costs may run up bills.

The city council, however, voted to accept the boat by a 6-3 vote at a Jan.11 meeting.

Let's refinance.......   The city council introduced at their last meeting by 8-1 a debt refinancing plan that would save the city $26 million in the 2006 fiscal year, and a total of $112 million in the next six years.   The plan, created by the Philadelphia financial firm UBS, would according to O'Reilly even out spikes in debt payments over the next 20 years.


The city is expected to adopt the plan at the next city council meeting this Wednesday.