Funding for Jersey City charter schools targeted as JCBOE approves 2% tax hike, state aid stays flat

Jersey City charter schools were the target of frustration as the board of education passed a $667 million budget for the 2015-16 school year, which will increase the local tax levy by 2% – generating $2.2 million in new revenues for the district.

JCPS Business Administrator Luigi Campana

JCPS Business Administrator Luiggi Campana

Members of the Jersey City Board of Education unanimously approved a $667 million budget for the 2015-16 school year during a public hearing on the matter.

The new budget, which raises the local tax levy by 2%, will generate $2.2 million in new revenue for the district. In total, the district will collect $112 million from local taxes for the next school year.

State aid for the district will remain flat at $420 million, with the rest of the revenue coming from State and Federal grants, as well as relatively small amounts from other sources.

The increase will not affect those living in tax-abated properties, as they are not subject to the local tax levy for education.

Business Administrator Luiggi Campana, who made a presentation on the new budget to the board, said that what has increased in terms of costs is enrollment for the district and Jersey City charter schools alike.

Campana stressed that the major challenge the district was facing is that they’re “not getting any additional funding for any of the additional enrollments that we are showing year-to-year.”

In addition, Campana stated that while the district stayed within the 2% cap on increasing school taxes, they had the right to exceed that number.

Following up on a question from education activist Gina Verdibello, Campana said that back pay for teachers from a new contract is “incorporated” into the new budget. Campana also noted that the new budget would not result in any layoffs.

Another education activist, Riaz Wahid, stressed his displeasure not only with the district, but funding for charter schools.

“The State is telling [the district] to pay more money to charter schools, $5 million,” said Wahid. “Why can’t the state give us more money because we are also increasing our expenses here?”

In response, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marcia Lyles said that she “would encourage all citizens of Jersey City to go to Trenton.“

“We certainly do, as a board and as a district, appeal for additional funding, however, we are ten strong.”

Lyles added that she agrees with “citizens that are concerned with the allocations [of funds] to the [charter] schools.”

“We agree that the funding, the charter schools, their advocacy seems to be stronger, but I really urge and encourage all people to participate in that.”

Board President Vidya Gangadin added that “we should be very aggressive now in getting the verify residency done, so that we can be aggressive in verifying that the students that are in Jersey City Public Schools do live in Jersey City.”

Campana responded by saying “that is one of the strategies to try to contain expenditures that we may not have to actually budget for.”

Finally, prior to passing the budget, board member Lorenzo Richardson motioned to amend the budget to $665 million to avoid the tax increase – which was not seconded by any board member.

Richardson said that instead of raising taxes the board should look at reducing expenditures on contracted services. Fellow board member Sangeeta Ranade agreed, but said that doing that would be “real difficult at this stage” because the state had already approved the budget.

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