Reasons for the tax increase are varied. A 13.2 percent rate increase to the state’s health insurance plan as of January; increased spending on school security; curriculum updates to math and science programs; aging facilities (the average building is 83 years old); a growing student population; and a low reserve of funds from last year’s fiscal mistakes have forced the district’s hand.
As the one-year teachers’ union contract approaches its expiration date in June, the BBOED must also plan to pay its teachers. Salaries are the district’s largest expenditure; teacher salaries account for 38 percent of the proposed budget, with total salaries making up 65 percent. Salaries and benefits combine for 84 percent of the budget.
“This was the fairest number we came up with to improve our district with what we hope the taxpayers can absorb,” said Board President Joseph Broderick. “We came up with what we thought we need for the improvement of the school district.”
According to state law, boards of education can increase property taxes by 2 percent every year, even though Bayonne opted not to do that for four of the last 10 years, most recently in 2014. Any levy that results in an increase of over 2 percent must be approved by the state. The proposed taxlevy comes after the city increased property taxes by 3.65 percent in 2017 and 2.27 in 2016.
The tentative budget will now go to the Hudson County Superintendent of Schools for approval, and the BBOED will vote to approve the final budget at a public hearing on Wednesday, April 25.
For a Bayonne home with an assessed value of $177,000, the property tax levy would mean 80 more dollars tacked onto the annual tax bill. Many residents are still in sticker shock from last year’s 5 percent increase.
“Nobody wants to raise taxes, but we’re facing these issues. This is reality,” said Trustee Christopher Munoz. “It would’ve been irresponsible for us to take a zero percent increase.For this community to succeed we need to make an investment in the public schools.”
“This was the fairest number we came up with to improve our district with what we hope the taxpayers can absorb.” – Joseph Broderick
After not increasing property taxesfor four of the 10 ten years while the former governor’s administration cut education spending, Bayonne found itself in a fiscal mess from which it is now crawling out. Recently, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a school funding plan that would aid schools like Bayonne that have historically been underfunded.
“We have to make up for the lost revenue of the past,” said Munoz. “Our goal is to one day live with no tax increase, but today is not that day.”
The text of the proposed budget reads, “The additional State Aid, if received over the next few years, would go to Collective Bargaining Agreements, more educators and personnel, while at the same time keeping the tax increase to a reasonable level.”
Maintenance of the district’s aging facilities, which make up 12.5 percent of the budget, are expected to increase in cost over time if the district does not invest now. Repairs to roofs, masonry, and heating, venting and cooling projects are priorities for the district, which hopes such projects can help reduce energy costs over time.
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.