The Hoboken Board of Education voted unanimously (7-0) last night to send a preliminary $74,875,799 budget with an 8.47 percent tax hike to be reviewed by the office of Hudson County Executive Superintendent Melissa Pearce.
“This is a preliminary budget that will be submitted to the county office on Monday, March 20th, as required by code … The county office has made changes and updates that they wish for us to make to this budget,” said BOE Business Administrator Joyce Goode.
“That will be done and those changes will be presented to the finance committee first, and then to the full board, at the April meeting.”
Highlights in the school budget that she also mentioned include a lose of $4,236,998 in state aid over the past five years, delivering a combined tax increase of 0.52 percent in the past two years, maintaining all curriculum programs, managing for health benefits, other insurances, and contractual salary and benefits with their union employees.
Furthermore, Goode indicated that the total tax levy is up $4,680,165 from last year and the tax increase can be broken down to 6.93 percent coming from the public schools and that 1.54 percent is attributed to the city’s three charter schools.
To that end, the charter schools budget is up $851,229 from the prior year’s budget, an increase of about 7.4 percent, with budgeted charter school transfers up nearly 57 percent since 2014.
Additionally, nearly half the budget,$35,310,584; is set aside for spending plans at the individual schools within the district, with the smallest item being for regular instruction programs: $1,450,332.
After resident Mary Ondrejka called on the board to tighten their belts this budget cycle, noting that the city’s preliminary budget is $135 million with a seven percent tax increase (which they’ll consider on first reading tonight), Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Christine Johnson explained further why they were in this predicament.
“Unfortunately, this year, with a reduction of state aid, and the fact that many of the COVID grants that came in are no longer there, we had to shift some of our funding back to the general fund budget and the two years of a lack of a tax levy [hike], or I should say the extremely narrow tax levy for two years, which averaged to 0.52 percent,” she reiterated.
The schools chief continued that had the district opted to do consistent two to two-and-a-half percent annual tax increases, this year would’ve been a much smaller burden to taxpayers, but also pointed out that all faculty and staff deserve to be taken care of due to their stellar work during the pandemic.
” … If I was able to give them a 25 percent increase, I would give them a 25 percent increase because of the value that they bring to the children is immeasurable. At the same time, we are a local governing body and we do understand the impact that taxes have on the community.”
Although Johnson didn’t make any promises, she committed to working with the board and the administration to bringing that tax increase down to a smaller number.
While the meeting lasted for nearly three hours, the session began with about 90 minutes of student achievement and teacher awards and ended with a brief closed session.
Trustees Leslie Norwood and Melanie Tekirian were absent, the former due to testing positive for COVID-19.
The Hoboken BOE’s public budget hearing will be on Tuesday, May 2nd, at 7 pm. at the Demarest School Auditorium, located at 158 4h St.