Jersey City and Hoboken school districts are considering new budgets for the 2022-23 school year, with Jersey City looking at a nearly $1 billion budget as they face millions in state aid cuts, while Hoboken has minimal changes to the budget from last year.
Jersey City proposes $956 million school budget
As the second largest school district in New Jersey, the Jersey City school district is proposing a massive $956.6 million budget for next year, about $142 million more from last year’s budget.
“As I present this budget to the board for approval, please keep in mind that the district goal is to maintain the current programs and invest in our ancient school buildings that have been neglected for years,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Norma Fernandez at the Board of Education’s budget meeting on March 15. “We must provide a free education to all the residents who want to attend a public school, and we must pay for it.”
The district is expecting to earn about $570 million in total revenue, including $350.5 million from local sources, and $186.5 million in state aid this year.
As part of the local revenues, the proposed tax levy is increased to about $283.6 million, which is about $5.6 million more than last year’s levy. The local payroll tax for Jersey City employers that was instituted in 2018 will also bring in about $65 million, which is less than the $86 million that was generated for last year’s budget.
The school district is also expected to lose about $68.5 million in K-12 state aid, the most of any school district in all of New Jersey this year, following changes made at the state level for distributing aid back in 2018.
Expenditures are estimated at $754.2 million, with about $314 million going to salaries, $104 million going to benefits, $157 million going to non-salary/operations, and $129 million going to charter schools.
For taxpayers, the tax levy plus a bank cap of $200 million could mean an average of $2,399 per household over a year, or about $200 per month, based on the average assessed value of residential property of $461,925.
Due to the cost of expenditures over the expected revenue, the district will have a shortfall of $184 million. School Business Administrator Regina Robinson said that they’re considering multiple options to make up for it, including uncollected payroll tax revenue shortfalls of about $160 million, a bank cap balance of about $254.8 million, or the excess fund balance of $30 million.
At their second meeting on the budget on March 17, a number of board members were skeptical or opposed to the budget, primarily over the tax increases for residents.
“The Board of Ed approving these tax increases can effectively render families homeless,” said Board Vice President Natalia Ioffe. “We’re contemplating increasing people’s taxes or rent by $200 a month on average. As someone who was raised by an immigrant single mother, and who had to work throughout my entire high school years to help out with rent and groceries, even $100 or $50 a month can make a difference whether someone can keep a roof over their head or food on the table.”
Trustee Alexander Hamilton also opposed the tax increases, and has asked if they have looked at other issues for the budget such as bonding. “There is no way that we can tax our way out of this with these levy increases, and there’s no way that’s not going to go very well with the public anyway, right? This isn’t even going over well with the public.”
On the other end, Vice President Gina Verdibello and Trustee Noemi Velazquez supported the budget, with the former warning that there’s repercussions for not fully funding the school district such as layoffs, sports program cuts, and buildings going unfixed.
“This city will have to pay for these children to be educated, regardless of state aid or not,” said Verdibello. “I just want to put that out there as a reality, because you can’t say no to these children for an education. It’s against the law, and it is a right that they have.”
The board held off on approving the budget for their next meeting on Monday, March 21. They have until March 28 to submit a proposed budget to the Hudson County Executive County Superintendent for review and approval, and have until May 14 to adopt a budget.
Hoboken looks at $88 million school budget
The Hoboken school district adopted a budget of $88 million, which is only about $366,000 more than last year’s budget.
The district in the Mile Square City is estimating about $69 million in revenue, including $61 million from local sources, and $7.5 million in state aid, which is about $700k less than last year as part of their own state funding cuts. They are also proposing to spend about $11.9 million on charter schools.
During the Board of Education’s meeting, Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson and Business Administrator Joyce Goode presented three budget scenarios for consideration, all of which factor in the state cuts, which include either a 2, 4 or 5.7 percent tax increase.
“Over the next several weeks the board will review and discuss the options and will provide feedback to the administration,” said Board President Sharyn Angley. “A budget hearing will be held in early May where the proposed budget will be presented to the board and to the community.”
Another meeting will be taking place in May for the board to vote on the budget.