Union City recently finalized a $230 million school budget for 2009-2010, which will keep taxes stable, said Union City Business Administrator Anthony Dragona.
The new budget was approved by the Board of School Estimate on March 30, after it had been adopted by the Board of Education on March 26. Unlike some other towns in Hudson County, Union City residents do not vote on the school budget, but they can speak up at the annual hearing on the budget.
The total budget is actually down $4 million from last year, but the school tax levy, the amount that Union City taxpayers contribute to the budget, remains at $15.4 million. The schools are also funded by state aid.
Dragona said that the budget decrease is due to Gov. Jon Corzine’s new school funding formula, which is based on demographic information about the students, rather than the town as a whole.
“That type of funding formula is viewed as being fairer than the previous funding formula,” said Dragona. “Now, with this new funding formula, they throw away the zip code.”
He said that state aid is now dependent on enrollment, the number of students with special needs or limited English proficiency, and the number of students who are eligible for the National School Lunch program, which provides kids with free or reduced price meals at school based on their family income.
For 2009-2010, Union City received $181 million in state aid, which makes up 84 percent of the total budget, and $10 million in federal aid.
Dragona said that the district may also receive additional funds, possibly up to $6 million, from the national economic stimulus package, but that preliminary numbers for that are not reflected in the new budget.
“When you budget, you try to budget as conservatively as possible because you do not want to anticipate funds that may not materialize,” said Dragona.
“We are trying to handle things more like a business.” – Anthony Dragona
The district also saved about $1.5 million in salaries and benefits by reducing the number of employees by about 15, Dragona said. He said the reduction was mostly due to retirements and consolidating positions.
“We are trying to handle things more like a business, and we have to be very sensitive in the economy that we are in right now,” he said.
Enrollment has increased to 11,166 for the coming fall. In 2008, 11,050 students attended Union City schools.
Dragona also said that the district is looking forward to the opening of the new Union City High School at 2400 Kennedy Blvd. in September. Right now, the school is divided into two campuses.
In October, the district is also anticipating the ground-breaking for the new Christopher Columbus Elementary School, at the corner of New York Avenue and 15th Street
Amanda Staab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.