The school board approved a $618.55 million budget on Thursday evening that raises school taxes by 15 percent.
Superintendent Eileen Shafer said the 2020-21 school budget cuts 47 teachers. She was able to reduce layoffs from 243 down to 47 because of a $11.6 million injection of federal Covid-19 funds.
Shafer said the 47 people being cut will likely be rehired from savings produced through retirements. Her administration faced a $63.7 million budget shortfall that was brought down to $14.6 million. She is closing the Urban Leadership Academy and School 14 as part of a series of cuts to balance the budget.
School board members approved the budget in a 7-2 vote. Board members Kenneth Simmons, Manny Martinez, Oshin Castillo, Nakima Redmon, Corey Teague, and Emanuel Capers voted in favor while Jonathan Hodges and Joel Ramirez voted against.
“We all know this budget does not provide for a thorough and efficient education for our children in Paterson,” said Rosie Grant, executive director for the Paterson Education Fund.
School board members were told voting down the budget would jeopardize the process to end state takeover of the district. Some board members had expressed reservations about the budget because of the 15 percent tax increase.
The 2020-21 budget raises the school levy by 14.9 percent. It increases from $47.44 to $54.49 million.
An average home assessed at $190,000 will pay $241 more in taxes per year, said school officials.
Teague and Capers had voted against the preliminary budget that proposed to axe 243 teachers. Both men gave their support to the final budget because of reduction in layoffs.
“I refused to support a budget that laid off hundreds of teachers. My primary focus today was the fact that 200+ of the 245 teachers who were originally slated to be terminated were placed back to work,” said Teague after the virtual school board meeting. “Does it reflect a thorough and efficient education? Not yet. But we have a job to do and we will get it done. With local control now a guarantee we can make the decisions needed to get us there.”
Capers said he also supported the budget because Shafer is using $3.6 million from the federal funding to purchase Chromebooks or other devices for all district students. Thousands of Paterson students lack computer devices rendering the delivery of education nearly impossible. Packets given to those students are viewed largely as inadequate in providing them an education amid the coronavirus pandemic that led to the closure of school buildings in late March.
Shafer has said all high school students have been equipped with Chromebooks.
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