The Bayonne Board of Education does not have the power to adjust taxes, according to President Maria Valado. Residents have been confused lately as to whether or not the board, or an individual trustee, has the power to raise or lower taxes.
Working as a group
Michelle Halsey, a Bayonne resident with a daughter in the school district, addressed the issue at the Oct. 26 board meeting. Halsey asked the board if any one trustee on the board has the power to adjust taxes or change school curriculum.
“Do the trustees individually have the power to lower taxes?” Halsey asked.
Valado’s response was simple: “No.”
“Do the trustees individually have the power to add, take away, or change school curriculum?” Halsey asked.
In terms of adding curriculum, Valado said: “Individually? No we work as a group.”
This is not the first time residents have brought up the issue of whether or not a trustee or the board can raise or lower taxes. At the Sept. 21 board meeting, other residents also sought clarification on the issue.
“I’ve been getting a bunch of calls, and a lot of people stopping me asking me to clarify stuff,” Anthony D’Amico said. “There seems to be a great deal of confusion going on.”
According to D’Amico, people are confused in part because Trustee Michael Alonso had been “preaching” that he is going to lower property taxes by $1,000 per person if re-elected.
D’Amico continued: “We all know that the board can’t do that. Can somebody explain to the public how absurd that is and the reasoning behind the fact that a trustee cannot lower property taxes for people?”
Alonso was absent at the September meeting, and did not respond to the issue at the October meeting. Alonso lost his re-election bid on Nov. 3.
Setting the record straight
“As a Board of Education, we don’t reduce or raise taxes,” Valado repeated.
Valado said that the school district’s Business Administrator, Dan Castles, tells the board what they need for the budget. He instructs the board on what the tax levy needs to be in order to approve the budget.
The Bayonne Board of Education is primarily funded by state aid, with a tax levy on local taxpayers funding the remainder.
“Even if we don’t take extra money from the city, we can’t reduce it,” Valado said. “That wouldn’t reduce taxes, it would just reduce the amount we get from the city.”
Valado said that as a Board of Education, technically they do not collect taxes from residents. Instead, the board asks the city for funding in order to run an efficient school district.
In response, the city assesses if it has enough to cover the tax levy. If it has the funds, then the city doesn’t raise taxes. According to Valado, if the city raises taxes, it’s because it doesn’t have enough in its budget to give the board the funding needed without doing so.
“It has nothing to do with raising your taxes, it has to do with the city raising or not raising taxes depending on the percentage we need in order to cover educational costs in the district,” Valado said. “We can’t lower [taxes].”
D’Amico thanked Valado and said that while he understands that, he wanted the public to understand it too.
“People are deceiving people and the message needs to be clear,” D’Amico said.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.