Jersey City $973 million school budget given final green light

The school district is expected to lose about $68.5 million in K-12 state aid

The Board of Education faced calls by a number of residents to fully fund the school district.

A $973 million budget for the Jersey City Public School district has cleared its final hurdle, with the Board of Education voting to adopt it for the 2022-2023 school year at a special meeting.

The budget, which was initially approved back in March, is a $159 million increase from last year’s budget, primarily due to an increase in the district’s local tax levy, the local payroll tax, a decrease in state funding and increased salary and benefits costs across the district.

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The district is expecting to earn about $570.2 million in total revenue, with $350.5 million coming from local sources, and $186.5 million coming from state sources. A total of $754.2 million will be spent on expenditures, with $334 million for salaries, $112 million on benefits, $178 million on non-salary/operations, and $129 million for charter schools.

The tax levy will be $283.6 million, and the bank cap, a district’s expense increases that can be banked for up to three years to be used in levy increases, is $143 million, which combined together for taxpayers will mean a yearly average of $1,611 per household, or about $134 per month, based on the average assessed property value of $465,400.

The school district is also expected to lose about $68.5 million in K-12 state aid, the most of any school district in New Jersey this year, following changes made at the state level for distributing aid back in 2018.

A number of residents, including those from advocacy group Jersey City Together, called on the board to adopt the budget and fully fund the school district.

“I think that you all ran to help the children,” said Danielle Walker to the board. “By denying equity throughout the whole district, by denying that we become a fully funded district, that we can have money to help these children with social emotional help, with curriculum, with help academically, you’re not on the side of the children.”

The budget was adopted 5-4, with Board President Gerald Lyons, Vice President Gina Verdibello, and Trustees Noemi Velazquez, Lorenzo Richardson and Paula Jones-Watson voting yes, while Vice President Natalia Ioffe and Trustees Younass M. Barkouch, Lekendrick Shaw and Alexander Hamilton voted no.

Dana Patton and Jessica Taube of Jersey City Together praised the board for adopting the budget after the meeting. “Real work lies ahead,” they said in a statement. “Jersey City Together will continue our work to ensure this money is invested so that our schools are fully staffed, that our children receive mental health support, and that every school has potable water.”

While the budget has been greenlighted, the budget was criticized previously by Mayor Steven Fulop, primarily due to his opposition to the tax increases.

“What are we getting for that money? And where is our money going?” he told the Jersey Journal in March. “When you increase taxes … the public will be asking what are we getting for that?”

In a response to the Fulop administration, Patton criticized them during public comments for “hogging an outsized share of the property taxes to fund it’s own budget, and continues to be antagonistic about the schools getting a more appropriate percentage.”

“With policies that encouraged rampant development and an influx of wealthier residents, the city created a situation that directly led to the reduction of state aid, and the state prevented increases over time,” she said.

A Jersey City spokesperson did not respond for comment on the adopted budget.

For updates on this and other stories, check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.