Bayonne residents are facing another property tax rate increase of 1.99 percent over last year as the Bayonne Board of Education passed a proposed $146.1 million budget for the 2019-2020 school year that includes a tax levy of $69.6 million.
The budget passed by a thin margin of 5-4. The budget proposal now awaits the county’s approval. This year’s budget is about $16 million more than last year’s, which included a 2.87 percent property tax increase and a $68.3 million property tax levy. The year prior saw a 5 percent tax rate increase.
The school district, which is funded by the state and from 40 percent of Bayonne’s property tax bills, levies additional taxes when the cost of running the district increases.
Healthcare costs consistently make up the largest increase in cost to the district. Salaries and benefits take up more than 80 percent of the budget. In May of 2018, the school board ratified a four-year teachers’ contract that collectively grants teachers a 12.7 percent raise. Still, Bayonne teachers remain the lowest paid in the county.
The tax increase comes even though the Bayonne school district received $65.5 million in state aid, up $5.5 million from last year. However, the district remains $53 million short of the original funding formula, passed in 2008.
“We’re really pleased we’re heading in the right direction,” said board President Joseph Broderick, who voted in favor of the budget. “The tax increase is the lowest it’s been in five years.”
“This budget does not reflect any fiscal discipline.” Maria Valado
All those opposed …
“We have a responsibility to our students, teachers, and taxpayers,” said Trustee Christopher Munoz. “I voted against the budget because I thought we should have done more to reduce the tax increase. We cannot continue to budget for unfunded state mandates. I’d rather put that money toward tax relief, textbooks, or Chapter 78 relief.”
Chapter 78 refers to the requirement that public school employees pay part of their health insurance.
Trustees Maria Valado, Jodi Casais, and Michael Alonso all voted against.
“This budget does not reflect any fiscal discipline,” Valado said. “Despite significant increases in funding from the state, the majority on the board refused to listen to reason.”
“President Broderick had promised we would be more disciplined,” Alonso said. “Instead, he and his posse fell into the same formula – tax, tax, tax.”
Tax rates remain on the rise
Since 2010, Bayonne’s tax rate has increased by 23.8 percent, 8 percent higher than the state average. Bayonne has a property tax rate of $8.45 per $100 of assessed value and an average annual tax bill of $10,425. The city levied from property owners a total $183.4 million in 2018, with 14.6 percent going to the county, 42.9 percent to fund the school district, and 42.9 percent to the city coffers to pay for local services, police and fire departments.
The city is still reeling from decades of disinvestment, whereby people take their residencies, businesses, and thus their property tax payments to a different town. The result was a 2013 structural deficit that ballooned to more than $30 million.
The city’s strategy to return to fiscal stability has been to attract developers to construct more properties that will one day pay property taxes. The city struck payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) deals with dozens of developers, who will make negotiated payments to the city instead of property taxes for a defined amount of time, usually 15 to 30 years.
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