Jersey City mayor talks budget cuts, all remote learning for students

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s budget proposal will be introduced to the City Council this week.

It calls for $25 million in cuts, but also does not increase taxes despite a $70 million budget shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget proposal comes on the heels of a vote last week by the Jersey City Board of Education to start the school year off with an all remote learning curriculum.

Fulop spoke with the PIX11 Morning News on Tuesday about these decisions and what they mean for residents and parents.

The mayor said his priority with the budget proposal was to make sure that it doesn’t add to the hardships that families are experiencing because of the pandemic.

“And we thought a tax increase would contribute to that,” he added. “And I’m thankful in this environment we were able to do that.”

Fulop said the budget proposal makes “targeted” cuts to almost every department.

“There’s nothing that was left untouched,” he said, adding that they tried to target programs that, while beneficial, are not essential.

As for the upcoming school year, Fulop said he’s “hopeful” that students will return to in-person learning at some point.

“I think in-person learning is really crucial to the development of children,” the mayor said. “But the reality is that health and wellness of teachers and students are paramount right now; that’s the No. 1 priority. And we just didn’t feel comfortable with the testing protocols in New Jersey and what types of resources we have around sanitation and clearing that we would feel comfortable putting thousands of children back in school and teachers back in school.”

When asked about a timeline for returning to the classroom, Fulop said his administration is monitoring COVID-19 data in the city and across the country.

“This is the type of thing where we’re not going to be the first to kind of dip our toe in the water on,” Fulop added. “We’re going to be patient and watch what other people do and then take it from there.”

The decision to start the year with all remote learning goes against a state requirement for school districts to offer some form of in-person learning.

Fulop said he’s been in contact with the governor’s office about the decision.

“Ultimately I think municipalities are going to make the final decision. The governor made his recommendations, strongly recommended what he preferred. We just disagree with it,” Fulop said.

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