© 2006 The Jersey Journal
Read my lips: Now, new taxes
$423M budget will lead to 18
percent tax hike
Reporter staff writer - Jersey City
Reporter - April 2, 2006
APPROVED – The City Council approved this year’s
$423 million budget,
eight months after the fiscal
year began on July 1, 2005.
$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
However, that is only the municipal portion. Residents are
billed an overall amount that also includes county
(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
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
7.5 million decrease in state aid. The school tax levy is
expected to rise to $79 million from approximately
The total tax rate will be calculated when the county passes
their budget before July 1 after the state's budget is
The council commended O'Reilly, city budget director Kathy Dealy,
and their respective staffs for working on what City
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.
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
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
the usefulness of those departments," said Lipski. "And last but
certainly not least for next year, I don't know
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
city pensions, and city employee health care, amongst other
Ward D Councilman Bill Gaughan pointed out that the rising
healthcare costs will pose a problem for future budgets
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
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
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
debt and waiting for approval from the state. Restructuring the
debt saved the city $19.5 million in debt service
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
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
million budget hole.
He also said that because the budgets have been late for nearly
15 years, if the city was even considering cutting
salaries to reduce taxes, it would have very little time to do
so in order to avoid a tax increase.
Jersey City Council approves budget
with 18 percent tax hike
Friday, March 31, 2006
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
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
"What scares me is where are we going," said Ward
D Councilman William Gaughan, noting police and fire
amounted to nearly $7 million.
Several council members blamed the budget blues
on spiraling health costs and a drop in the income
But burnishing his reputation as the council's
maverick, Ward E Councilman Steve Fulop identified a
culprit: Mayor Jerramiah
Healy acted "irresponsibly" in handing the
council a budget so late in the fiscal year, Fulop
"He's in charge," said Fulop. "Someone has to be
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,"
© 2006 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.
Tax hike looking like 18%
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
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
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
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
But municipal taxes are just one piece of the
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
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
plus some other cost-saving measures, shaved $25 million off
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.
Residents blast potential tax increase
Twenty people give suggestions
on $416M budget
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
"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.
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
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,"
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
Lazarus also complained that this year's budget
contained "one-time gimmicks" that won't return every
"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
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
The city is expected to adopt the plan at the next city
council meeting this Wednesday.