Jersey City’s governing body adopts spending plan that clobbers taxpayers

Jersey City’s governing body adopted the nearly $724 million municipal budget that will significantly increase property taxes and reduce municipal services but it left intact a 42 percent pay hike the city council politicians granted themselves earlier this year.

Council allies of Mayor Steve Fulop, who won re-election to a third term in 2021, were careful to complain without blaming the chief executive, who is widely believed to be a 2025 contender for New Jersey governor.

Ward E Councilman James Solomon and Ward F Councilman Frank E. Gilmore each voted against the proposal, but the measure easily passed.

Voting for the tax hike was Council President Joyce E. Watterman, Councilmen Daniel Rivera, Richard Boggiano, and Yousef J. Saleh, along with Councilwomen Amy M. DeGise, Denise Ridley, and Mira Prinz-Arey— all of whom ran on the Fulop team in the last election.

Saleh and Boggiano complained as if they had no choice but to approve the budget.

“The $26 million we’re going to lose from the state, that’s the only reason I’m voting for it. Things have to change here. I’m tired of paying taxes,” said Boggiano. “I’m gonna be around around for three more years and I’m not keeping my mouth shut no more.”

Saleh pledged to vote against the budget next year if things do not improve.

The city council approved an ordinance earlier this year to increase their own salaries from $60,000 to $85,000, as well as raise the Council President’s annual pay from $65,000 to $90,000. That pay hike was also approved 7-2, with only Solomon and Gilmore voting no.

Solomon released a statement calling the spending plan “unacceptable.”

“This budget is unacceptable. It raises taxes while slashing critical programs, and it is months overdue—a clear indication of the failure of this entire process,” said Solomon, who voted against the budget. “Let’s be clear about the situation we’re in. First, we’re voting on the 2022 budget at the end of the year, meaning we’ve already failed at the most basic responsibility at City Hall: making sure we’re getting things done on time.”

“Second, the budget slashes critical programs, including nonviolent community crisis response and city planning, while still increasing taxes on working families—and the problem is set to get worse the next time we vote on the budget,” said Solomon, who also expressed concern that the budget relies on $70 million in revenue from the American Rescue Plan that will not be available next year.

“My commitment is to hold this administration accountable and ensure the basic principles of good government,” said Solomon. “In voting ‘no’ on this budget, I am upholding that commitment and demanding better from City Hall, whose number one priority should be easing the burden on Jersey City families. We cannot afford this budget, and we cannot afford to continue allowing working families to pay for our government’s mismanagement.”

Nobody in Jersey City has held the mayoral administration accountable in decades.

Until recently, Fulop and his wife Jaclyn resided on Ogden Ave in The Heights, in a house for which he paid $845,000 in 2015, but they sold that unit for $1,350,000 and bought $2.4 million home at 272 Ogden Avenue, in which former New York Giant Justin Pugh lived.

Fulop’s $2.4 million home is assessed at $1,086,800.

In 2018 Fulop and his wife purchased an $820,000 oceanfront cottage on Point Judith in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

The city has not calculated the average cost to homeowners of the spending plan, but a preliminary budget had a projected tax increase of $1,030 per household, before the board of education was awarded a federal bailout of nearly $90 million that softened the blow of an expected $1,608 school tax hike on a home assessed at $460,000.

At his annual fundraiser at the Venetian in Garfield, North Bergen Mayor and State Senator Nicholas Sacco endorsed Fulop for governor in 2025.

Fulop’s close political advisor, Tom Bertoli, recently entered a guilty plea in federal court to a charge of tax evasion and is facing up to 18 months in prison plus more than $1 million in fines.

Bertoli was allegedly being pressured by prosecutors to provide information about Fulop and other political figures but so far nothing has surfaced to indicate that he has cooperated with authorities.

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