HOBOKEN, NJ - Recent statements by Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, the Hoboken Board of Education, and the city's charter schools have ignited a firestorm within the Hoboken School system over funding from a PILOT agreement at 770 Jackson Street.

At the heart of the matter is whether or not funds collected as part of that agreement are to be given to both the public schools and the charters. The Board of Education have launched a campaign that claims the City Council is looking to "defund" the Hoboken Public School District by allocating PILOT funds to charter schools as well. Charter Schools maintain that the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) was implemented using a formula that accounts for the students in charter programs, therefore the funding should be applied proportionally.

"PILOTs negatively impact public education as PILOTs do not require payment into the local tax levy for all​​ school districts. However, the Hoboken City Council admirably and responsibly addressed this issue in the 770 Jackson PILOT by earmarking monies for Hoboken public schools," says an FAQ circulated by the charter schoolspdf. "If 770 Jackson was not PILOTed, that property would pay into the local levy and the property tax money would be allocated to all four districts under the state funding formula for public districts and public charters."

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Former Hoboken Councilman Dave Mello, who was partially responsible for introducing the 2016 legislation, took to social media to offer his interpretation.

"It was my understanding and intent that the phrase 'Hoboken School District' include all four public school districts: The Hoboken BOE, Hoboken Charter School, Hola Hoboken Dual Language Charter School and Elysian Charter School," said Mello. "Table 5 of the resolution includes the data used to calculate the portion of the payment that should be distributed to the Hoboken School District (i.e. all four public school districts) in lieu of the taxes not collected. The number of students in the table is a sum total of ALL four public schools' enrollment, and this number was used to calculate the potential negative impact of the PILOT program (i.e. what would be needed to make all four districts 'whole.')."

Mello adds, "The payment by the property owner (in lieu of taxes) was intended for equitable distribution to all four public school districts. Nobody was to be shortchanged."

According to Mayor Bhalla, “As it pertains to the Hoboken Charter Schools, the PILOT payment has no effect on funding to which the charter schools are entitled. Charter schools are provided a payment each year from the Hoboken Public School District based strictly on a formula established by the State of New Jersey which is unaffected by any previous, current or future PILOT agreements.”

The Hoboken Board of Education has offered its own FAQpdf, claiming they deserve the whole amount of the PILOT because, "the maximum enrollment of the charter schools will not be increasing as a result of the new development. The enrollment impact will be solidly borne by the neighborhood schools of the local district. Only the Hoboken Public School District will be impacted. Only the Hoboken Public School District holds a legal and practical entitlement to PILOT funds."

Tax funding for the District is currently broken down so that 78.1% of funding goes to the Public Schools, while 21.8% goes to the Charter Schools. Specific to this PILOT agreement, the money at stake represents roughly $50,000.

According to the charter schools, "If these funds are not allocated, HBOE will be lowering per-pupil funding for 30% of Hoboken’s public students."

Sharyn Angley of the Hoboken Board of Education tells TAPinto Hoboken, "I would like to point out that over 700 District supporters and taxpayers have signed a petition in support of the City Council honoring the resolution that was passed in 2017 with regard to the PILOT agreement associated with the 770 Jackson Street development."

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 21, 2020.

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