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North Bergen cuts school district budget by $75,000

The township like other towns is suing the state over cuts in education aid

North Bergen has finalized cuts to the school district's budget for next year.

North Bergen has cut the school district’s budget. The Board of Commissioners received the proposed school budget and consulted with the Board of Education on it, then adjusted the budget under the category of debt service at its May 11 meeting.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution “certifying the amount necessary to provide a thorough and efficient system of schools for the Township of North Bergen.”

“It was cut by $75,000,” Chief Financial Officer Robert Pittfield told the Hudson Reporter.

The district tax levy for the General Portion of the 2022 to 2023 budget for the North Bergen Board of Education totaled $53,162,264. However, that budget was defeated by voters in the annual school board election held on April 19, something that has happened every year for some time. Residents generally vote the budget down in hopes that officials will cut it further, lowering taxes.

Following the $75,000 cut, the Board of Commissioners certified that the amount “necessary to be appropriated for the General Fund Budget to provide a thorough and efficient system of schools for the North Bergen Public School District for the school year 2022 to 2023” is now $53,162,264.

The district’s debt service is now $2,227,992 following the cut from the township. With the combined debt service and the aforementioned appropriations, the 2022 tax levy is now $54,717,706 as part of the over $176 million total budget for the Board of Education.

Following its approval, the resolution was sent to the Hudson County Board of Taxation, Hudson County Superintendent of Schools, North Bergen Board of Education, and the North Bergen Tax Assessor. The Board of Education will now further consider the budget, if it hasn’t already.

The Board of Education just met on May 17, and will meet again on June 8. For more information, go to northbergen.k12.nj.us.

Suing over state aid cut

Another topic of discussion was the loss of state aid to the district. Mayor Nicholas Sacco said the district is going to sue over the $2,657,087 decrease announced back in March.

“We’re in court over this,” Sacco said. “We’re going to court, we have to sue.”

Sacco said that under the old school funding formula, that state aid money used to follow the children to the school district they attend regardless of where they live.

“If a poor child lived in Ridgewood, the money followed the child,” Sacco said. “North Bergen did well under this formula. Then the Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled that the formula was constitutional. Now money is not following the child.”

Sacco chided the state for having what he called a “proprietary formula.”

“It’s proprietary, you can’t even find what it’s based on,” he said.

Sacco noted North Bergen was not alone in losing on state aid.

“Jersey City for example lost $68 million dollars,” Sacco said. “We went down $2.6 million. Money is not following the child any longer. There’s some sort of bizarre formula. A number of communities are going to court and we’re one of them. We cannot function.”

According to Sacco, North Bergen is surrounded by Abbott school districts, which are districts in poor communities highly funded by the state to ensure students receive an education in accordance with the state constitution. He said that these districts saw state aid increases while North Bergen and others in Hudson County saw cuts.

“We’re surrounded by Abbotts whose aid keeps going up because tax rate doesn’t matter,” Sacco said. “And we’re suffering and our kids are suffering. Hopefully we get into court and the court agrees that there’s something drastically wrong… If not, Jersey City kids will suffer, our kids will suffer, Weehawken kids will suffer. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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