Fulop proposes halting statue election to focus on payroll tax

City officials expect opponents of the planned payroll tax to start a petition drive to overturn it once the council adopts the plan.

JERSEY CITY — The Fulop administration is backing off its planned relocation of the Katyn monument in an effort to halt an expected delay in a new payroll tax, according to an email obtained by The Jersey Journal.

Mayor Steve Fulop sent council members an email on Tuesday telling them his administration would ask them to introduce an ordinance Wednesday that would rescind its June 13 ordinance that authorized moving the monument from Exchange Place to York Street.

Fulop and his council allies had previously made the decision to let voters decide via a Dec. 11 referendum whether to approve the planned relocation, but the mayor told council members in his email he’s worried that the same petition drive used to try to reverse the council’s Katyn ordinance would be used to stop implementation of the payroll tax, a 1 percent business tax intended to help fund the local school district.

The tax, which the council is expected to adopt by the end of the year, is opposed by business groups.

“While many of these developers have gained millions of dollars in benefits from being in Jersey City they continue to threaten the city that they will ‘spend whatever necessary to oppose’ a tax on them,” Fulop’s email reads. “It is upsetting and unfortunate that some large businesses here still don’t feel it is important to be partners with our residents.”

Moving the Katyn statue, Fulop added, is secondary to school funding.

If council members oblige, the action would be cheered by members of the Polish community, who have staunchly opposed moving the Katyn statue since Fulop first proposed the plan earlier this year. The statue commemorates the 1940 massacre of over 20,000 Polish people by the Soviet Union.

After the council authorized moving the statue at its June 13 meeting, a committee formed to lead a petition drive to overturn the measure. The petition drive is permitted by a state law that allows voters to reverse ordinances. After the council declined to rescind the ordinance on its own, the question of whether the Katyn statue would be moved was headed for a special election on Dec. 11.

City officials believe that a well-funded group that opposes the payroll tax would initiate a similar petition drive to overturn the tax once the council adopts the plan.

But the state law that allows for the petition drive also prohibits more than of these special elections in any six-month period. If the payroll tax opposition successfully gathered enough signatures to force a special election, it would also halt collection of the tax until that election, which might not come until November 2019.

“Given the risk of allowing a Katyn referendum to move forward on December 11th and then trigger the unintended consequences of pushing the ‘Employer Corporate Tax’ out one year (till November 2019) for a second referendum is a risk to high for our public schools and one that I am not willing to take,” Fulop’s email reads.

The payroll tax was proposed to help offset state aid cuts to Jersey City’s schools, which may amount to $20 million in the 2019-20 school year and will total over $170 million in the next seven years. Fulop has been spinning the tax as one on corporations, but it will hit a business of any size (the wages of Jersey City residents would be exempt).

Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at tmcdonald@jjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.

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