JERSEY CITY – The Board of Education planned to hold a public hearing Thursday night on the school district’s proposed $660 million budget, which includes a two percent tax increase. The hearing was set to begin at 6 p.m. at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School at 886 Bergen Ave.
The public hearing was the only opportunity that parents and other members of the public have to weigh in on the budget. Last fall, Jersey City voters passed a non-binding resolution to move Board of Education elections from April to November. The City Council later passed a formal, binding resolution making the change permanent.
This change means that voters will elect school board trustees each November, but will not automatically have an opportunity to approve or reject the annual education budget. Voters will have the opportunity to vote on school budgets if they exceed the state’s mandatory two percent tax cap.
While the proposed $660 million budget includes a two percent tax increase, the recommended increase does not exceed the mandatory tax cap.
The budget also comes with a 12 percent cut in personnel at the board’s central office at 346 Claremont Ave. Despite the cuts, some taxpayers have still expressed concern about a requested tax increase to feed a budget that is more than a half a billion dollars.
According to board Vice President Sterling Waterman, school trustees are also displeased with the overall condition of the budget, including the tax increase and the need to make more central office cuts.
“Most of us are very unhappy with where the budget is, especially since it has a two percent tax increase,” he said. “It’s a culmination of a lot of things that forced us to have to include the tax increase.”
He admitted the current budget “isn’t a slam dunk,” and could be voted down by a majority of the board trustees if there is enough dissatisfaction from members of the public tonight. – E. Assata Wright