$59.4 Million School Budget
Board Passes Budget
If there’s a taxpayer revolt under way in Hoboken you wouldn’t know it by attending the Board of Education public hearing on the budget. Despite pitching a plan that is $21 million dollars more than just nine years ago, most of the chairs in the Wallace School gym were empty. The sign-up sheet to speak included fewer than ten people. The scene was in sharp contrast to last year’s near melee over a plan that included teacher layoffs and high drama. Here’s a brief recap of how it went down:
Budget sees slight changes from last meeting
Superintendent of Schools Jack Raslowsky outlined minor changes to his proposed spending plan, with about $200,000 in additional cuts that brought it down to $59,160,223. The amount raised by local property taxes (the levy) checked in at $36,764,796. Raslowsky claimed per-pupil expenditures drop from $24,808 this year to $21,859 next year as enrollment rises from 1873 students to 1923. The per-pupil rate is complicated by moneys that pass through the regular school budget into Charter Schools and for Special Education. Raslowsky says it is not as simple as taking the overall budget and dividing it by the number of students in the district.
Most speakers say the district spends too much
Board of Education candidate Ruth McAllister kicked off the public hearing, saying a $59 million budget is too high with facilities costs that are bloated.
McAllister noted many taxpayers in Hoboken are suffering from a large tax burden, and said not enough work was done to lessen the blow from the school budget. In response to a few speakers from the Hoboken Revolt group, Teachers Union President Gary Enrico said “We will never make a concession on Health Insurance,” and mocked those who recently lost their jobs in the financial sector who “made upwards of 150 to 200 thousand dollars a year” and now claim teachers in Hoboken are overpaid.
Maureen Sullivan speaks up for Connors Kids
Board of Ed candidate Maureen Sullivan noted cuts in the classroom would hit Connors School while “Not one administrator” was being cut from Raslowsky’s budget.
Sullivan asked “Why would someone stay at Connors when the school is not doing a good enough job?” Sullivan noted 91% of Connors 6th graders are failing their language arts tests, and the people actually dealing with the students are the ones cut in the Superintendent’s budget. City Council gadfly Maurice DeGennaro also made an appearance to say it’s “Easy to criticize” but that Raslowsky “did a pretty good job” on cutting the budget.
The Board votes 5-3 to approve the budget
As expected, Kids First board members Theresa Minutillo, Carrie Gilliard, and Rose Markle voted against the budget while finance committee chairman Frank Raia led the yes votes from Phil DeFalco, Jim Farina, Carmelo Garcia and Frances Rhodes-Kearns. Minutillo said she wanted to see a budget that included no increase in the tax levy, which is up 1.9%, while Raia and Raslowsky noted the actual school tax rate is down 2.8% due to increased ratables picking up the slack. Those who were here less than 10 years ago when the School Budget was around $38 million dollars aren’t moved by that argument.
Would have told you what Raia running mates Anthony Oland and Hector Irrizary said about the budget, but they sat in the audience and didn’t sign up to speak.
Before the budget vote the board voted 6-2 in favor of expanding its inter-district school choice program in the 9th and 10th grades to allow 10 to 20 new students. Money would come from their home districts to pay for a portion of their education. Minutillo and Farina were the no votes.
Next stop: Board of Ed election and budget vote on April 21. Polls are open from 2pm to 9pm.
School Budget Hearing Tonight
Tonight the Hoboken Board of Education holds it’s mandated public hearing on the budget. If they follow the usual script, Superintendent Jack Raslowsky will tout the lack of a tax increase, union leaders will implore the board not to cut workers, and members of the board minority will complain not enough has been done to lower overhead and administration costs. Sometime during the evening board Finance Committee Chairman Frank Raia may pull out another million or so dollars in cuts, money critics will claim was built into the Superintendent’s budget for just such a moment.
Another budget, another election
When it comes to the School Board, every year is an election year. Pupie’s seat is up for a vote, along with Theresa Minutillo’s. Each is running with a slate of candidates, at least three of whom are likely to have a few words to say about the budget. Maureen Sullivan and Ruthy McCallister will weigh in as they often do, while Anthony Oland will likely again sing Raslowsky’s praises. Watch for Hector Irrizarry to take the Phil DeFalco route and keep quiet. Speaking of DeFalco, some will be taking side bets on whether he shows up, and if so, when. The CPA’s busy times are at the end of each quarter and just before the April 15th tax deadline. He’s dealing with both right now, and has been known to put his clients ahead of his commitment to serve on the board.
Watch for the board minority of Minutillo, Carrie Gilliard and Rose Markle to vote against the budget if more cuts aren’t made. The tax revolt crowd will cheer them on, but if they aren’t careful the minority will once again play into their opposition’s hands. A vote against the budget will be used in campaign literature as a vote against the children.
The hearing begins tonight at 7pm in the Wallace School gym on Willow Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets.
More School Budget documents
New school budget documents (click to read 198 page budget) are in ahead of next Tuesday’s public hearing and vote on the spending plan. Donna Antonucci went to the Board of Education to get the numbers, and shares her views on what she sees:
“Jack Raslowsky owes the public answers to their budget questions at this meeting. If he doesn’t answer, the only thing to do is to vote the budget down in April. I have looked at the budget itself and not so suprisingly, the budget is top heavy. Yet again, we seem to have too many chiefs and not enough indians. Jack projected an increase in enrollment as he has done year over year. This not so reliable increase in enrollment artificially reduces the per pupil cost to $21K. The school not only does not have a program to ferret out students from other districts who are in our schools illegally, the school has turned a blind eye to students who don’t even try to hide that they don’t live here. The administration has even chastised some parents for bringing to the attention of the administration specific students who blatantly were not living in Hoboken. Is this all to substantiate fat, administrative, 6 figure jobs?
I think the cost per pupil could be around $15K per student if we cut non added value management roles such as the principal for the Brandt school by consolidating and reducing the number of buildings we have to operate. (With a building, you have to have a principal). We also have an army of custodial staff. According the latest records we could get our hands on, the district employs 29 FT custodians, 19 PT custodians, and 19 maintenance workers. Plus the director of facilities who is little more than head janitor and made $110K last year. All this for 6 buildings. We have teachers that were so bad, they were pulled out of the classroom into administrative role in lieu of documenting their poor performance and firing them, i.e., we promoted someone to do nothing. There are many more examples of wasteful spending that doesn’t go into the classroom.”– Donna Antonucci
What are your thoughts?
The public gets it’s turn to speak on Tuesday at the Wallace School, and as always in the comments section below.
See more on the budget below
$59.4 Million School Budget Unveiled
Hoboken Schools Superintendent Jack Raslowsky proposed a $59.4 Million dollar budget to the Board of Education last night. The spending plan is $2.5 million dollars larger than the plan he put forth last year, and is over $21 million more than was spent to educate Hoboken public school students just nine years ago. The explosion in costs over the last decade has been masked by an increase in new “ratables” that have kept taxes steady and taxpayers otherwise engaged. That may be the case again this year as the actual amount of money raised for the district in taxes is projected to go down in Raslowsky’s proposal.
Spending is up, but taxes go down
In the documents provided by the district last night (which were far from complete) the Superintendent indicated the tax levy (amount of the budget raised from local taxes) is rising from roughly $35.8 million to
$36.7 million. The increase is more than made up for in new real estate development, so the actual school tax rate is falling 1.8%. (See examples of how that will effect actual tax bills in the budget documents below.)
Layoffs likely in final plan
If you recall last year’s storyline it may be somewhat similar again this year. Raslowsky has again indicated there will be layoffs, though he didn’t say where or how many. This puts the fear of Jack in new teachers, who along with their union reps begin to plan a big show of force for the Public Hearing and Final Vote on the budget March 31.
Then, the board adopts the budget, which goes to a public vote along with the Board of Ed candidates in April. Lather, rinse, repeat again next year.
Check out the budget documents here and make your comments below.
Apparently the Board of Education has been hard at work “crunching numbers” for this year’s budget, and expects the tax rate to be down close to two percent – and that there will likely be layoffs coming for some employees. Full explanation at tonight’s meeting.
Hoboken Board of Education Agenda
For March 17, 2009 meeting
- Annual Board Ethics Update.
- Introduction of 2009/2010 Preliminary School District Budget.
- Review of Early Childhood Audit and Approval of Corrective Action Plan.
- Approval of minutes.
- Policy Manual Revisions – 6000 Series – 2nd Reading; 9000 Series – 1st Reading.
- Revision of Mission/Vision Statement (QSAC).
- Personnel: resignations, appointments, transfers and postings.
- Possible closed session discussion on litigation settlement, current litigation, potential litigation and personnel items, discussion of negotiations with Hoboken School Employees Association and (HSEA) and Hoboken School Administrators/Principals Association.
- Leaves of absence; Family Leave; Maternity Leave.
- Utilization of facilities: outside agencies and community facility requests.
- Fiscal reports, school reports, Board Committee reports, Board Secretary/Treasurer Reports, Fire Drill reports.
- Possible discussion and/or action on the future of the school district’s facilities.
- Attendance at workshops, field trips.
- Approval of payroll.
- Claims, regular and Workers Compensation Third Party Administrator.
- School Choice Entry in Grades 7-12.
- Possible participation in Henry Hudson Anniversary Tug and Barge Program.
- Approval of NCLB Title 1 required SES Provider Contracts.
- Approval of Pre-K Provider Contracts – FY10.
- Amendment to 2007/2008 NCLB original application to include carry-over funds.
- Apply for supplemental funds and extension of grand period – Reading 1st.
- Cancel old outstanding checks.
- Additions to contract awards.
Any matters relating to the above items may come before the Board. Please be advised that the Board may be required to go into closed executive session during this meeting to discuss litigation settlement, current litigation, potential litigation and personnel items.Action may be taken on all agenda items.