The Jersey City Board of Education narrowly passed a $682 million school budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, including a two percent tax increase.
Based on the presentation by Jersey City BOE Business Administrator Luiggi Campana, the total general fund for 2017- 2018 is $580 million. This includes a tax levy of $116 million, $420 million in state aid and $967,000 in federal aid.
Additionally, the special revenue fund has a total of $102 million.
After a lengthy presentation, it seemed that some of the board members were not convinced the budget was sound, particularly Trustee Lorenzo Richardson.
He had some questions regarding the human resources portion of the budget.
“From $8.6 million and then all the sudden in this year’s budget, and this upcoming year’s projected budget. This year is $674.6 million and then about $856 million for the next year. That’s a dramatic drop.”
Richardson also questioned why the business office and district wide expense line is “going up by $3.2 million, and the legal line going up $200,000 not only for this year but also staying stagnant for the next year – starting at $200,000.”
Although Campana said he already addressed these concerns, which were first brought up on Tuesday, via email, Lorenzo claimed that some of the lines on the budget that were sent in a separate email were blank.
Furthermore, Trustee Marilyn Roman explained that there is nothing in the budget set aside for teachers so how would they expect to keep the younger teachers who make around $50,000 to $60,000 a year in the district.
“This budget contains nothing for teachers!,” she exclaimed.
Board Vice President Sudhan Thomas also had several criticisms about the budget, beginning with Chapter 78.
“If the teachers are definitely contemplating $40 million in health care costs, the unions are looking to cut down that number,” Thomas pointed out.
“But this budget pretends that the event is not going to happen.”
“This budget is looking at a $23 million increase, but it could potentially increase out of 78, could surpass that, so in essence, this budget is kind of ignoring a potential event that could waft the increase that is projected.”
Thomas also questioned the $250,000 increase which was labeled under labor relations. Originally it was explained as an allocation for labor negotiations for the upcoming contracts but then later found out it was it allocated for workers compensation.
“It doesn’t add up,” stated Thomas.
The budget was adopted with 5-4 vote with Trustees Angel Valentin, Richardson, Roman and Thomas voting against the measure.