Setting the school budget signifies a commitment to accomplish the educational goals previously adopted by the Board, as well as a commitment to the residents and taxpayers to reach those goals in the most economic manner possible. The school administration worked diligently to develop a 2013-2014 budget that strikes that delicate balance.
The month-long approval process began when the administration presented the Board with a draft budget. Although the tax levy has been kept flat for three years, this year’s budget went up—enough to cover losing $450,000 to the Federal sequester a requirement to pay down past food service debt accumulated many years ago, and an increase of $553,000 due to expansion of a grade at one of the charter schools. The total budget includes funding for the Hoboken Public Schools (K-12), the Early Childhood Program and three charters schools.
All Board members were invited to meet with the Superintendent and to email their recommendations to Superintendent and full Board. Public input also was requested at two televised Board meetings. Any suggestions were reviewed by the Superintendent and the Finance Committee, on which I serve.
I also reached out to public school and charter school parents. Nobody wants a tax levy increase, but neither did anyone favor cutting approximately $1.5 million to make up for the lost revenue and increased costs. Everyone understood the impact this would have on all publicly funded school children. (Reducing the public school budget reduces the charter school funding, which is also paid through the tax levy.) To forgo any tax levy increase at all would have required significant cuts to staff and programs.
On March 27, the day of the vote—and after choosing to play little if any role in the review and recommendation process—three of my fellow board members suddenly found their voices and spoke loudly against the budget and voted no. Their purely symbolic actions seemed an attempt to cast themselves as the sole proponents of taxpayers, which is completely false.
The entire process was open to every Board member. There were multiple opportunities for input and collaboration. The Chair of the Finance Committee offered to schedule meetings to fit everyone's work and/or personal schedule, to no avail. No prior recommendations were made regarding alternate funding or cuts. I remain curious about what plan Mr. Garcia, Mrs. Rhodes Kearns and Mr. Biancamano would have recommended to continue the educational programming for all these students. How would they replace well over $1 million dollars? True champions of the taxpayers? What about the kids?
I will continue to work hard in the best interest of the district and the students as well as the taxpayers of Hoboken. And I will never put politics and symbolism ahead of my responsibilities to the district.