The Board of Education will vote on Tuesday, May 9 on the $72 million budget for the 2017-2018 school year, after hosting a public hearing last week. Business Administrator William Moffitt and Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson presented the budget to the board on May 2.
Last year’s final budget was $69.7 million.
The budget will be financed from several sources, including a local property tax levy of $43.8 million. The rest of the revenues come largely from state and federal aid, and rents people pay to use school buildings.
For an average Hoboken homeowner, property taxes will increase by approximately $83 per year on a home assessed at $522,000, as the rate will increase about 16 cents per $100,000 of assessed value.
Of the total $72 million, $46 million will pay for operating expenses such as teachers’ salaries and benefits, electricity and heat, and instructional supplies and materials. Facility repairs and maintenance costs are about $587,000.
Approximately $15.3 million from grants and entitlements will pay for early childhood education and other initiatives such as after school tutoring, summer academic programs, and non-public textbooks.
Charter school funding
Hoboken’s charter schools, which are also public, raise some of their funding themselves, but will receive a total of $10,155,500, an increase of about 9 percent from the previous year’s $9,311,663. According to Moffitt, the main reason for the increase in cost is the projected enrollment of an additional 71 students to the schools.
The district has three charter schools that were founded by parents and educators. They hold lotteries each year to choose students.
HoLa will receive the most funds with $3,896,816, an increase of roughly $476,000 from the previous year. HoLa expanded from sixth to seventh grade this year, despite the board’s suing to stop the expansion, and will expand to eighth grade next year.
Elysian Charter will receive $3,243,906, an increase of about $47,000, and Hoboken Charter School will receive $2,834,929, an increase of about $271,000 from the previous year.
According to the state Department of Education, which controls how much funding the charter schools receive, HoLa will increase its enrollment by 37 students, Elysian will increase by 11 students and the Hoboken Charter School will increase by 22 students.
In 2015, when the school board sued the state to prevent the HoLa’s expansion, the board majority argued that the charter schools siphon too much money and resources from the other public schools and that the state ignored alleged racial socioeconomic segregation created by the school.
So far, the outcome has favored HoLa, as the NJ Department of Education granted the schools’ expansion.
In April 2015, the school board voted to appeal the state’s decision in appellate court but not to spend any additional taxpayer money, instead relying on private donations. Board members themselves dipped into their pockets including Jennifer Evans, Irene Sobolov, and former trustees Jean Marie Mitchell and Leon Gold.
This past Tuesday, oral arguments were delivered in the district’s appeal at the Hudson County Administration Building in Jersey City. According to board member Irene Sobolov, they won’t know the court’s decision for at least a month.
According to Moffitt and Johnson the district was able to maintain its programs and current number of employees, despite not receiving any additional state aid this year.
“There will be no reduction in teaching staff or support staff.” – Dr. Christine Johnson
The budget does not allow for any additional staff to be hired and “existing positions will be reorganized if necessary based on need.”
“The proposed budget maintains many of the programs we developed and implemented this school year and includes some new initiatives,” said Johnson. “It includes all current staffing and doesn’t indicate cuts to staff whatsoever. There will be no reduction in teaching staff or support staff.”
According to Johnson the budget supports Project Lead the Way and expands it at the high school level, offering more courses. It continues the Princeton review SAT prep program and the Passport to Learning after school program, which will be expanded to the middle school.
The budget also supports the arts programs and expands Response to Intervention (RTI) support programs.
It also includes the middle school’s move to the AJ Demarest building, and Brandt’s expansion to include second grade this coming year.
Johnson said the budget also expands early childhood education by two additional classrooms, and supports the district’s technology initiatives, such as new LED interactive board and additional Chromebooks for teachers.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.