Despite concerns from residents and taxpayers, the Jersey City School Board unanimously adopted the school district budget for the 2013-2014 academic year last week. The $660 million budget includes a two percent tax increase.
Voters will not have an opportunity to approve or reject this budget as they have in previous years. 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 only have the opportunity to vote on school budgets if they exceed the state’s mandatory 2 percent tax cap.
While the $660 million budget includes a 2 percent tax increase, the recommended increase does not exceed the mandatory tax cap.
Voters will not have an opportunity to approve or reject this budget as they have in previous years.
Early last week, School Board Vice President Sterling Waterman predicted the budget may have been in jeopardy of being voted down by the board.
“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.”
At the time he said the budget wasn’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 at the March 21 public hearing.
Despite this prediction, however, the budget was unanimously approved.
In response to questions raised by resident and activist Riaz Wahid in an e-mail, school trustee Carol Harrison-Arnold responded, stating, “I’m sure I’m not the only one on the board interested in knowing why our tax levy is so high in comparison to other districts. This board is committed to efficiently operating the district's resources to maximize student outcomes. We also are sensitive to the burden it places on the community and will work to reduce that burden wherever possible. Substantive changes will not take place over night, but we are moving in the right direction and will continue to do so with more input from the community on the budget going forward.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.