After the outrage over the recent tax hike due to the West New York city budget, there’s good news for the town’s taxpayers: the proposed school budget for the 2009-2010 academic year will not increase property taxes.
“We are very pleased to keep school property taxes frozen.” – Robert Van Zanten
The proposed $119.7 million budget was recently passed by the Board of Education. The budget must also be approved by state and county officials before it can be reviewed and finalized by the West New York Board of School Estimate, which consists of three members of the Board of Commissioners and two members of the Board of Education.
Unlike some other towns in Hudson County, West New York residents do not vote on the school budget, nor do they vote for the members of the Board of Education, who are appointed by the mayor.
The Board of School Estimate will take a final vote on the budget at a public hearing on March 30 at 10 a.m. in the Municipal Court Chambers.
The proposed budget calls for a $13.6 million tax levy, which is the amount to be raised from taxpayers. The budget itself is up $4.1 million from $115.6 million last year.
Aside from the money that comes from taxes, the remaining $106.1 million will be provided mainly by state and federal aid and grants.
“We are coming in at zero tax increase for homeowners in West New York,” said Van Zanten.
State aid increased
The district has secured a $3.8 million increase in state aid, a 5 percent increase from this year, largely due to helping an additional 1,700 students sign up for the state and federal National School Lunch Program. This program provides eligible kids with free or reduced price meals at school based on their family income.
“We had a very good follow-up through our building principals, who worked with the teachers to make sure the children returned their applications,” said School Business Administrator Rena Hendrick. She added that the schools also offered help to parents who may have had difficulty understanding the paperwork.
“The initiative that we took makes this so important, because it is not just that we are looking to increase the amount of aid that we receive,” said Hendrick. “We are here to help the children in need and their families, and that is what the program accomplishes.”
Van Zanten said efforts made in previous years had not been as strong as this year, and that the district already had had 7,000 students signed up.
School officials also saved money in the proposed budget by educating special needs students in West New York, rather than sending them to outside institutions. This saved $1.2 million in tuition costs and $245,000 in transportation costs.
New special needs class
This savings was partly due to a new class created by school officials for six autistic pre-school students.
“We are able to return a half dozen autistic children in the district, saving on tuition and transportation costs,” said Hendrick.
Van Zanten added that this not only saves money; it also gives the kids a chance to socialize with other children who most likely live closer to them.
“So, it is really good for the kids, and that is really the bottom line of what we do in West New York,” said Van Zanten.
He said the district also participates in a statewide consortium program that helps schools purchase supplies at a lower price. This saved the district $294,000.
The school district also has $4.2 million in the budgeted fund balance, money left over from the previous year that will be used toward the new budget.
Next year’s budget will also provide $1.4 million for improvements to older elementary schools that may include exterior repairs and new sidewalks. Van Zanten said that $850,000 of that money has been allotted to pay for two additional science labs each in Public Schools No. 1, 5, and 6 that will be constructed during the summer.
School enrollment is expected to increase, but school officials are not yet sure by how much. The district currently serves 7,305 students.
Amanda Staab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.