Paterson school district to eliminate 2.8-percent tax increase
By Jayed Rahman
Published: April 19, 2017
After the school board voted down state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans’ budget earlier in the month, the superintendent and the board have negotiated a deal to eliminate the 2.8-percent tax increases included in the 2017-18 school year budget.
School board members will convene a special meeting on Monday night to re-consider the rejected budget. School board president Christopher Irving expressed reluctance to confirm the elimination of the tax levy increase which was made public by board member Lilisa Mimms. He said the full board has to have a discussion about it first.
“The board has been unhappy with the tax increase. I think he’s going to propose a new budget without a tax increase,” said Irving. “I think the superintendent had a change of heart and realized the tax increase just isn’t working.”
Board member Flavio Rivera, chairman of the fiscal committee, confirmed the elimination of the tax levy increase. He said the board explained to the state reasons for rejecting Evans’ budget. “The state wanted us to approve this budget. And what we said was, ‘You got to remove the levy.’”
Terry Corallo, spokeswoman for the Paterson Public Schools, cited the special meeting scheduled for Monday highlighting “possible reintroduction” of the budget in the notice when contacted for comments.
The superintendent now has to find a way to cut or find $1.1 million to fill the gap opened by the removal of the levy increase. Rivera said the meeting scheduled for Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the district’s headquarters will provide more information about the tax levy and how to fill the shortfall.
Evans had to close $41.82 million shortfall in the budget. He had to eliminate 136 staff members including 96 teachers. The cuts also extend to programs which led some board member and advocates to assert the budget does not allow for a “thorough and efficient” education for students.
Irving said the superintendent attempted to override the board’s rejection of the budget through an appeal to the state commissioner of education.
Evans argued during the budget vote that he had the authority to override the board even though the school board gained control over fiscal from the state. Instead, he had to appeal to the commissioner of education, as is done in non-state operated districts, to override the local school board’s rejection. Evans has not received a decision on the budget override from the commissioner. In the meantime, he engaged the board to try to work out a budget deal.
School board member Lilisa Mimms, who has badgered the administration for pushing a second tax increase in a row on homeowners, first released information about the elimination of the tax hike on Wednesday morning.
Activists have long said Evans is attempting to draw water from a dry well. A typical family in Paterson makes roughly $33,000, according to the U.S. Census. The average home in the city pays almost $10,000 in taxes every year. This makes increasing taxes on homeowners a difficult proposition. So much so, under heavy fire from council members, mayor Jose “Joey” Torres introduced a municipal budget that reduced the municipal portion of the tax levy.
As the city pulled back on hiking taxes every year, the district picked up. Evans last year increased school taxes by 6.4-percent.
“It’s a significant win for the City of Paterson and the homeowners,” said Irving. The school board rejected the $553.74 million budget in a vote on April 5th, 2017.