With no money allocated to the West New York teachers and other school employees, who again protested before the meeting, the board of education voted down a proposed $136 million budget that would’ve come with an eight percent tax increase.
Inside the special meeting at West New York Middle School, School Business Administrator Dean Austin presented the proposed $136.6 million budget.
Austin said that despite the teachers’ current frustration, no programs will be cut, there will be no mass layoffs and an $850,000 tax levy would be used to pay unemployment benefits and terminal leave.
This jump is about a $1.2 million tax levy increase from last year. Austin further stated that this would only lead to an additional $94 in property taxes for a homeowner with an assessed value of $100,392.
Furthermore, given that the Hudson County tax levy increase of the past three years is 44 percent, West New York is very fortunate to be at just 11 percent – second to only Union City at six percent.
Austin also noted that given that West New York is an Abbott school district, $94,465,988 comes from the state. Outspoken Trustee Matthew Cheng said he felt “blindsided” by the proposed $850,000 tax levy since he saw it for the first time just moments prior.
With that in mind, Cheng asked what the game plan was to negotiate a new contract with the West New York Education Association, to a round of applause from the audience, before Board Counsel Lester Taylor said it would be improper to discuss negotiations with a specific bargaining unit in public.
That didn’t stop Trustees Steven Rodas and Lorena Portillo from calling out both the board and the school district as a whole for being irresponsible with the process.
During the public portion session which once again saw well over a dozen teachers speak, a couple of old timers did their best to try to breathe some life into the board.
When it was all said and done, the motion to pass the budget failed by a vote of 2-4, with Trustees Jonathan Castaneda and Damarys Gonzalez voting yes. Trustees Silvio Acosta and Dennise Mejia were absent.
The board has until May 14th to approve a budget.