The city’s school budget raises taxes on the average property owner by $17.10, according to preliminary budget numbers presented to the school board on Monday night.
School district officials calculated the annual increase by using an average property assessed at $190,000. This average property will pay $1,402 in school taxes, up from $1,385, according to their calculations.
The 2-percent tax hike will generate $829,119 in revenue for the school district’s 2018-19 budget. Business administrator Richard Matthews first proposed using the cap bank to increase taxes beyond the 2-percent cap.
Local taxpayers will contribute $42.3 million in 2018-19, up from $41.45. Much of the district’s half-billion dollar budget is funded by the state and federal governments.
“That’s for the year. Which means four dollars and change on a quarter,” said school board member Manny Martinez. “Take note of that because everyone’s going to rant and rave they are raising taxes. I think that’s a very realistic ask.”
The local taxpayers face a trifecta of tax increases from the city, school district, and the county. The city’s budget has a 2.5-percent hike and the county budget raises taxes by 2-percent.
“When you add all of those together it will amount to much for the people of Paterson,” said former school board member Errol Kerr.
The school district began with a $75 million budget shortfall that was closed over the past months.
Matthews said the budget has been balanced on Monday night. His presentation listed the bulk of the revenues to close the gap came from state aid increase, a book sale and leaseback deal, workers compensation and prescription rebate, and fund balance.
“That doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods,” said Matthews. He has yet to gain the school board’s approval for the book deal. Some school board members spoke against the deal describing it a one-shot budget gimmick.
Board members were expected to vote on the book sale and buyback on Monday night, but postponed it.
“I think it’s a big win that we have an opportunity to have a balance budget without laying people off,” said Matthews.
Some school board members had praise for the preliminary budget.
“I think this is the first time in a while we’ve seen a budget where we’re inputting things our students need. We’ve been cutting, cutting, cutting. No one has been adding,” said school board president Oshin Castillo. Matthews’s presentation listed $9.3 million in spending on a reading program, mobile devices for students, textbooks, and summer professional development.
Matthew’s presentation also listed superintendent Eileen Shafer’s priorities to hire two librarians, a director of special education, two bilingual teachers, two world language teachers, two gym teachers, 20 truant officers, nine music teachers, four art teachers, and two music teachers.
School board member Jonathan Hodges said there is uncertainty around governor Phil Murphy’s budget that puts the $20 million state education aid increase received last week at risk.
“It would be devastating if the $20 million were not reality,” said Shafer of the state education funding increase.
Matthew’s budget presentation listed total appropriations at $511.5 million for school year 2018-19 from last year’s $478.78 million.
School board members received the 500-page plus preliminary budget document on Monday night. The board will vote on the preliminary budget on Wednesday to send to the Passaic County superintendent of schools.
The school board will later hold a public hearing to adopt a final budget.