A referendum to create a tax that would support the arts in Jersey City has been approved by 64 percent of voters in the district. The legislation now awaits an expected final approval from city council before going into effect, according to The New York Times.
The city, which lies just west of Manhattan across the Hudson River, is the first in the state to pass a tax bill that would directly allocate funds to support the arts, with beneficiaries including theatres, dance companies, and art galleries. Somewhere between $1 and $2 million is expected each year, from a rate of up to 2 cents per $100 of assessed property value, with only half a cent is expected to be levied from that ceiling.
The tax proposal predates the current health crisis that's brought arts to a standstiill—going back to 2018 when local artists were trying to get funds allocated in the city budget. At the time, Mayor Steven Fulop rejected the request, saying it was an unsustainable plan, but planted the seed for a tax paid for by residents. After the New Jersey state legislature approved the tax bill in January of this year, it was put to the voters on the ballot.
And, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the rush was on to solidify a plan to keep doors open. “If we waited til 2021, we were worried a lot of groups wouldn’t exist, artists would have left the city and arts organizations would have gone under,” says Robinson Holloway, executive director of Art Fair 14C and a former chair of the Jersey City Arts Council.
While it's the first tax bill of its kind in New Jersey, several other municipalities have similar revenue streams, including in Michigan and Missouri. A referendum for a tax to support the arts failed in North Carolina last year.