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Sep 28, 2018 19 tweets 8 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
This picture tells a story, but it doesn't show the backstory.
This during the BOE meeting at Snyder HS auditorium, which I attended w another JCPS parent & also to support @Harshal623 who, along w Teacher @jnaatus, is driving a civic effort to get filtered fountains in McNair.
I signed up to speak during public comment last night. I wanted to ask a question on record about Special Education. I've been learning about the potential impacts of under-funding for those students from parents. Before publi comment began, this happened:
So when I got up to speak, I asked my planned Q, but I also asked: "You spent 30 min debating $5K, but you have a $30 million cut next spring & none of you are debating that. Why? And related Q: when will we start to see earnest dialog & details from BOE re: #PayrollTax"?
So I asked my Q then sat back down in the public gallery, which the picture from @jnaatus shows. A minute later, the BOE President @ThomasForNJ appeared, and sat down behind me and started having a sideline, basically offline discussion with me that was in response to my Q.
And here I'd like to pause & agree 100% w @jnaatus: "Should public questions in a public meeting be answered and discussed publicly in a democracy? Seems strange to turn publicly posed questions into a private debate at a public forum."
I agree!
But there's a 2nd thing:
I was not comfortable w this exchange for a few reasons. First...Mr. Thomas got up from the dais, then walked abt 25 yards to where I was sitting to speak w me about my question. But none of what he said was on the record. That's not ok. And secondly...
I honestly asked myself: how am I being perceived here? I was extremely grateful to be sitting with a fellow parent who witnessed the entire exchange & heard 100% of what Mr. Thomas shared with me. Very grateful for #MomSolidarity in that moment. As Mr Thomas spoke to me...
...I listened to what he had to say, unable to verify the veracity of any of it, & also realizing he & I had divergent points of view (he acknowledged as much too). BTW-he was explaining his position on the #PayrollTax. A few things on his "position":
1-As 1 BOE member he can't/doesn't represent the BOE, a governing body requiring a quorum to function. He can't/doesn't represent the body (tho I read him as trying to convey that he represented the BOE POV). But in reality he is 1 member of a body having a sideline convo.
2-I don't know if he shared his position on the #PayrollTax with the public once comments ended & the BOE reclaimed the floor (I had to leave shortly after this exchange; my kids were w me and it was past their bedtime). I hope he did share his POV, because it's important...
...Important 'cause he's 1 of 9 individuals in #JerseyCity w agency to oversee @jcps_district. His POV does matter, but in context/concert w/ other 8 BOE members:
@Amy_DeGise @LorenzoRichJC @MussabAliJC @MattSchapiroJC @njgerald @pastorlipe #VidyaGangadin #MarilynRoman
These 9 individuals have oversight of a public school system for 30K of our kids-all of these kids should be well educated. Including the more than 70% of whom qualify for free/reduced lunch, 14% of whom are in Special Education, & 10% of whom are English language learners.
I point out enrollment stats only to highlight how concerning it is that we've got:
1-known shortfall at the current moment (we are $100M under-funded)
2-known increase in that shortfall of $25M per year starting this spring
3-BOE that is debating $5K & engaging Qs in this manner
A few minutes after this picture was clicked, I watched Harshal speak & was reminded again of why funding our schools & supporting our schools is so important. Our public schools are educating, molding our future leaders & we have to fund that public good
Then I got up to leave & this evening ended with a final bizarre twist. Ms. Mary Cruz was speaking-she had waited her turn & was finally at the podium addressing the BOE. While I was walking out, Mr. Thomas interrupted her, from his seat on the dais, to call out to me...
...Telling me that there was going to be School Funding related event on (I think I heard this right) 10/24. He did this RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF HER PUBLIC COMMENT. Ms. Cruz rightly asked for her time to be preserved given the interruption. Not sure if she was granted that.
This is how our BOE is functioning.
It's v concerning.
I think many incl teachers & staff have been witness to dysfunction over the years. I've heard some say it's gotten worse.
I've been really tuned in the past year & I'm generally appalled.
IMO we are seeing the logical impact of TREMENDOUS budgetary pressure. JCPS is under profound budgetary stress & it's only going to get worse, & our elected officials seem used to this backdoor, handshake politicking. I come from public accounting accounting background tho, so...
...I believe the $ money trail & the documented context around the $. That's my bias.
I get the need for politics to gain consensus, corral votes, etc. But I fear we're not seeing that...we're just seeing chaos & dysfunction. That chills me given the fiscal reality.

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More from @CivicParent

Sep 30, 2018
1/A bit abt last 20 years of property taxes in #JerseyCity & how it can inform problems w school funding in 2018.
This is #JerseyCity’s 3 tax levies (Levy=amount raised by property taxes to help fund the budgets).
Red line is city tax. Green is County. Orange is @jcps_district
2/Notice how much city taxes have gone up in last 20 yrs. last 10 yrs in particular. The school tax have gone up, but at at slower clip. This slower growth results in smaller base on which to increase local revenue in ‘18
3/now let’s look at smaller suburbs nearby. Like Montclair (smallish city), & Maplewood, small town w few businesses to pay taxes. Some diversity but not as much as JC, and more homogenous wealth than JC (which has disparate wealth ie very wealthy & very poor)
Read 12 tweets
Sep 28, 2018
1/If anyone is wondering why the #PayrollTax is needed in #JerseyCity to help fund @jcps_district schools, here's a thread. This is admittedly complicated & fraught w/ legacy & external issues (eg 2% cap) but ultimately public can/should engage & understand this LOCAL problem.
2/ I created a #NJ #PropertyTax dashboard to show property tax history for last 20 years in NJ. Here's the link:…
Drill into #JerseyCity (w/in Hudson County). And you'll see tax base growth & also property tax levy growth for City, County, & BOE.
3/ Notice tax base growth of #JerseyCity from 1988 to 2017 (lower left chart). We have largest tax base in entire state in '17. On lower right, notice City property taxes (red line), which correlates somewhat w/ tax base growth (it's going up)...
Read 7 tweets
Aug 30, 2018
1/ FYI: @JC_Gov Tax Base value now $34B, post-Reval (note: this excludes abated property). 2018 tax levy of ~$125M assumed a base of about $29B.
Applying same rate on $34B = $136,000,000. @JerseyTogether UFB is here:…
@stateaidguy @CouncilmanYun
2/ I don't understand Abatements data-doesn't make sense to me. Will call Tax Office tomorrow to inquire. Tab 6 Abatements still has $2.7B, which was pre-Reval (24% ratio) value. Monaco North building alone is still valued at $20M - same value it had in 2015. @Civic_JC
3/ Here's the "Assessments" summary from "UFB-5 Tax Assessments" tab and it shows summary of Tax Base (on left). On Right shows exempt properties incl "Other Assessments" at $11B. That's presumably the abatements (that makes sense for post-Reval value). @EllenXSimon @cjkovach16
Read 6 tweets
Aug 9, 2018
1/The #HudsonCounty freeholder meeting is packed. Many here due to controversial #ICE contract. These are your freeholders:
Jerry Walker
Albert Cifelli
Anthony Romano
Anthony Vainieri
William O’Dea
Caridad Rodriguez
Kenneth Kopacz
Joel Torres
cc @StPaulsChurchJC @MigrantCenterJC
First time at one of these meetings. Space is large, each freeholder has designated seat similar to City Council. Like city/BOE meetings they are doing student awards and such upfront before ongoing business/votes. cc @TheLocalJC @JerseyTogether @NJ08forProgress @Mahmoud4Congres
FYI there are 21 counties in NJ.
566 municipalities roll up into those counties.
Hudson County has about 15 or so towns including #JerseyCity, Bayonne, Hoboken, more.
Read 21 tweets
Jun 26, 2018
2/ NJ Legislature reps huge to our schools because they can advocate at state level for proper funding of our schools, including a) forcing accountability of city (e.g. PILOT reform) & b) allowing for new revenue mechanisms (e.g. payroll tax directed to school coffers)
3/ Some of our NJ reps on twitter here:
District 31: @AswMcKnight @NicholasNJ31
District 33: @RajMukherji
Are any other D state reps on twitter that I'm missing here? @Amy_DeGise @NJ08forProgress
Read 8 tweets
Jun 21, 2018
@EllenXSimon @JCEA_jerseycity TBH-I’m 1 of many parents who advocate more than the JCEA on this. The bar isn’t that high, frankly. That JCEA leadership isn’t more on top of this really big, really pressing challenge is frankly concerning and increasingly noticeable. And it begs lots of Qs.
@EllenXSimon @JCEA_jerseycity I see lots of amazing teachers online who call attention to legit concerns like expenses-and parents have MUCH to learn & should IMHO listen. But I see more teachers as individuals than I do the union as an org w coalition power & I don’t understand why that is
@EllenXSimon @JCEA_jerseycity And twitter convo won’t IMO bridge this understanding gap esp when dialog gets polarized...but maybe more coalition-building & relationship building would. I love my teachers & want to support them which means solutions sooner vs later on long term sustainable LOCAL funding
Read 4 tweets

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