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Yvonne Balcer 283 York Street Jersey City, NJ 07302

At-Large Council Candidate with the Manzo Team 

1.     I was the first president and founding member of the Van Vorst Park Association.  The idea of a neighborhood group came from the late J. Owen Grundy.  However, I took on the responsibility of organizing the association. I also started the tradition of the Meet Ball.  The Van Vorst Park Association and the Meet Ball have been active for more than 25 years.  I was also founding member and former chair the Jersey City Ethical Association.

 2.     I am a teacher in a Catholic school in Manhattan.  I teach science and graphic design. I also teach web design in an afterschool club.

 3.     I live in Ward E, also know as Downtown Jersey City. One major concern facing Downtown residents is overdevelopment. This administration has been granting parking with new developments. According to the information that I have collected at each abatement ordinance, this city has granted nearly 50,000 new parking spaces.  Most of these new parking spaces have not been constructed.  More parking means more dust particulates in our air.  Jersey City has the highest percentages of dust particulates.  This means more asthma and other respiratory diseases.

 

     Another issue is flooding, as the new office building and other massive housing units are constructed in Downtown Jersey City, residents are facing more flooding problems.  Downtown Jersey City has a high table of underground water.  When pilings are driven in the ground to support these massive buildings, water is displaced. This water displacement will lead to more flooding.  Flooding also cause soil displacement is older buildings, the reasons for cracks in older homes.

 

     Solving the parking problem means hiring an engineer to study our water table.  Since the Jersey Shore is given tax money to solve their flooding problem, I would pressure the state for the same services.

     Finally, the third issue facing Ward E, is the lack of open space.  New development means more people and pets.  However, development, especially, Newport, lacks real parks.  Open space is critical.

     Solving the open space problem means a replacement of our various boards; citizens not political friends need to be placed on the boards.  Developers that received the OK from this administration should have their plans review.  Permits do not have to be issued if violations occur.  Green acres funds should be utilized for more open space.

 4.     Overburden property taxes are the number one issue.  The ratable base keeps falling, which means it takes more money to operate government.  As an example, taxpayers are giving nearly the same amount of money to the Board of Education, approximately $80 million, but the tax rate keeps increasing due to the falling ratable rate. The ratable rate also affects the municipal and county taxes.

     Related to property taxes is the overburden bonding debt.  The municipal portion of taxes is approximately $20.00, $9.00 is payment for the bonding debt. In order to increase services, the bonding debt must be addressed. The city should be a moratorium on certain bonding debt.

     The second issue is our water and sewerage bills (MUA).  The privatization of water means less money for our budget and the MUA was created as a bonding mechanism to plug our budget holes.  The water and sewerage bills are making homeownership unaffordable for Jersey Citys residents.

     The final issue is our Fire Department.  Jersey City is closing firehouses and it is allowing development on contaminated soil (the soil is capped, weathering will eventually expose this soil).  This is a very serious problem, especially when contaminated soil burns.  In 1991, the Aetna Street fire took days to put out.  There is a bill in our state that earmarks special funding for the fire department in a similar manner as the police.  We also need to place a special assessment on large developments, which can be earmarked for the fire department.

 5.     The waterfront development is a giveaway.  Land assessments are not current which means the city is not receiving market value. State law does not allow abatements on land; the city could raise its ratable base if the land assessments were at market value.  Waterfront development is taking away needed light and is creating massive wind tunnels.  Analysis must be done on traffic patterns in relation to any future developments.  Abatements are not need in this booming economy.

     Jersey City gave tax abatements on low-income housing.  This meant we are pushing the tax burden on senior citizens who are homeowners and other low-income residents. While the state is trying to address the issue of property taxes, our seniors are still hit with skyrocketing water/sewerage bills. Many seniors live in two-family homes without a tenant.  They do not have income to repair their rental apartments.  I would allocate funds (state or CDBG) to help seniors make repairs on their apartments with the understanding that they would rent to low/moderate income tenants.

     I have answered the issue on open space and traffic

 6.     The tax abatements must be audited.  I believe the low assessments on land and the agreement with the recreation fund made many of those agreements fraudulent. Higher assessment means a higher ratable base when the budget is struck. 

     Since the State of New Jersey forgave 80% of the income tax on some waterfront developments that means the State does not need the revenue.  I would lobby the State for one-third of the remaining 20%. 

     The city must apply for state grants.  According to the 2001 budget, the city did not apply for grants as in previous budgets.  The buyouts cost the city millions in grant money.

     I would not vote for non-bidding contracts as a general rule.  Non-bidding contracts should be for specialized services, it is not to reward political friends.

     Jersey City needs to review its bonding practices.  Bonds cannot be used to plug a budget.

     Finally, the city needs a five-year plan on its budget; the crisis budget management style has to go.

 7.     In order for Mayor Schundler to get his charter school bill pass in the legislature, he allowed the State to change the formula for capital improvements (bonding) for public schools.  In the past, the city received 65% to 70% of its cost from the State.  The city paid the rest.  This expense was added to the municipal, not school portion of the budget.  The State fixed a formula of 35%, which means the city must pay 65% for capital improvements.  Schundler is lobbying the State about capital improvements for charter schools.  Presently, the Jersey City Public School has a large bonding cap of 8%.  The bonding capacity is under cap. Jersey City has approximately 8 Charter school with 10 more to open next year.  The cost could be staggering.  We gave the Board of Education approximately $7 million for capital improvements for the 2001 budget; in 1995 it was less than $2 million.  $5 million is equal to $1.00.  Taxes cannot be stabilized until this issue is solved.  Hopefully, the State will pass the law on school construction aid.

     While I would like to see the schools returned to local control, the city must be secured that the State funding does not disappear with the State. Enormous amount of money was poured into our Board of Education when the State intervened.

     I believe our public school should be used for recreation.  They should be opened in the evening with our city recreation programs.  We do not need to build recreation centers; we need to use the schools.

 8. I am the only candidate running for office with 14 years of city council meetings.  I understand the budget and laws governing our city government.  The city council is the legislature branch of government.  They make the laws and controls spending.  Candidates without my experience will rely on others to direct them.  I also believe the city must address the quality of life issue.  However, if the budget is not managed properly, then no issue can be addressed.

 

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