Hoboken School taxes UP! Why?

Why are Hoboken school taxes going up with declining enrollment?

You ever wonder why school taxes in Hoboken are so high? You ever wonder how each year the administration promises increased enrollment (to justify such high taxes), yet enrollment keeps going down? You ever wonder why no one is making a stink about it?

If you think it’s because we have the No. 1 school in the state, well you’re wrong. Former Board of Education member Maureen Sullivan finds the proposed increases to the 2013-2014 budget suspicious, as she explains in today’s letter to the editor:

Hoboken School Taxes too high

Letter: Hoboken school taxes increase double state cap!

“On Wednesday the school board plans to raise the school tax levy by an astounding 4% beginning July 1, to $38 million. After four years of keeping the levy flat, this board now will not only raise taxes, but by double the amount allowable under the 2% state cap.

How does this happen? As a board member from 2009 until this past January, I objected to any tax levy increase suggested by administrators (who didn’t pay taxes here), as did my fellow former member, Theresa Minutillo, though I always wanted to go further with actual tax cuts. Now, the Kids First majority is without a flat-tax advocate. And the public no longer is allowed to vote on the budget. As part of the Kids First decision last year to move the election to November, the annual referendum on the budget has ended and the weeks of discussion and debate have disappeared. Whattaya know? Taxes go soaring.

Hoboken School Taxes going up Hoboken411 letter to the editorLet’s not forget that Hoboken is already spending an unfathomable $23,716 per pupil this year, according to “official figures” that don’t take into account a number of line items. That’s the second-highest of any of the 220 K-12 districts in the state, and that includes high-flyers such as Princeton and basket cases like Camden. A similarly sized district such as Roselle Park, which Hoboken beat in December’s football championship, spends $13,836 per pupil, about the state average. Their state aid will stay flat this year, while Hoboken’s will jump 8.3%, to $10.5 million.

But somehow it’s never enough.

Every year the administrators promise a dramatic increase in enrollment – next year they are projecting almost a 14% jump! Yet the new influx in students never materializes, and enrollment continues to slide: This year they enrolled nearly 100 fewer students than predicted. But over-estimating sure helps the per-pupil amount look better when you advertise the budget.

Without any media coverage, it’s nearly impossible for the public to know where all the money is going. Roselle Park, for one, held a public budget workshop for the community a month ago and posted the video online. Hoboken revealed the often confusing and contradictory budget numbers just days before Wednesday’s budget hearing. The public will get one chance to ask questions, and then the board will vote that night on final approval of the total $64,789,691 budget.

Superintendent Mark Toback and the board owe it to Hoboken’s hard-working taxpayers to try harder to cut our wasteful spending. Remember, we spend $10,000 more per pupil than the average district. Even with flat tax levies, the dip in rateables has meant our school taxes have actually gone up 5.27% since 2009.

Jeff Spicoli loves hoboken school taxes highAdministrators and board members will have you believe there’s not a dime to save in this budget. Consider that the board loves Sodexo, the cafeteria company contracted to supply better meals and cut the lunch program’s red ink. Nevertheless, it won’t even consider contracting out other non-educational services, which could offer us better service and enormous cost savings. Union City just outsourced their bus service. Guess who spent $78,000 buying two of their old buses? And do you wonder what happens when a teacher fails to show up in the classroom day after day? The district pays that person plus two other teachers to offer make-up classes for the students. Last year the board granted the unionized teachers, clerks and bus drivers a 10.8% raise over three years. Wondering who foots the ever-growing bill? As a friend of mine says, look in the mirror.

Before the November election, the Kids First candidates campaigned on the boast that the school tax levy had remained flat for three years (it’s actually four years.) In fact, Mayor Zimmer wrote an endorsement letter that trumpeted that information.

The good news is that the Mayor has introduced a new city budget that reportedly won’t raise our municipal taxes (411 note: until after the election).

The bad news, of course, is that her friends on the school board are raising our taxes the first chance they get.”

Maureen Sullivan

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14 Comments on "Hoboken School taxes UP! Why?"

MauiM
Member
MauiM

Shocks me that nobody brought up the fact that a huge number of the “Hoboken” students are from Jersey City. If you ever see the elevator by the 9th street light rail on a school day, scrores of Jersey City students coming down from the heights. …. I was actually hoping we would see BOE spending CUTS, not the contrary. For someone to stand on the podium and ask for more money to produce some of the lowest state testing and enroll students from neighboring towns is downright insulting. But this is Hoboken.

briank
Member
briank

Maybe I am simplifying things a little too much, but I dont care if a kid goes to a charter school or a public school- hte kid is being educated by our tax dollars here in Hoboken. However you may do the math, we spend entirely too much on the BOE budget with disgustingly poor results. I respect the rights of teachers to have unions, and I know education is an investment in our future, but this is such a collosal waste of money for such poor results it would never stand in the corporate world. Why do we let it stand here?
As for voting on budgets, I used to vote against them. However, i don’t think voting on budgets is the right way to do this because guess who goes and votes? Thats right- the BOE employees and their families who live in town. Many municipalities got rid of residency rules for public employees purely because they could vote themselves pay increases, as has been the case here in Hoboken for many years. And the more aides and recpetionists they hire, the more voters they have to apporve this ridiculous budget.

keenobserver
Member
keenobserver
Hob424 — I checked into this further and you’re right, the charter schools do have more kids than I thought. Elysian and Hoboken Charter have around 300 kids. Altogether they three schools have just over 600 Hoboken residents enrolled, though not quite the 650 that the district is budgeting for. But here’s a bigger problem. Leon Gold’s budget breakdown says the district will pay $7.81 million next year for charter kids, up from $7.2 million this year. That’s an extra $553,000 next year to pay for the extra charter kids. But that $7.2 million was the amount budgeted a year ago–it’s not the actual figure paid out after school started and the actual number of kids was counted. According to the district website, the actual amount spent on charter school kids this year is $6.8 million. The charter schools tend to overestimate how many kids will actually attend and so the enrollment is always lower each year than projected. So the bottom line here is that Superintendent Toback is budgeting a whopping $1 million more for charter school kids this year–even though the only increase in enrollment will be the new 5th grade at Hola, which may have at most 30 students from Hoboken (and 10 or 15 of those probably would be going to the public schools here if Hola wasn’t there). The district pays Hola $10,500 per student, according to the website, so that’s an extra $315,000 — not $1 million! Toback is using the oldest bureaucratic trick… Read more »
keenobserver
Member
keenobserver

Hob424–

Hoboken and Elysian do have around 200 each, I believe, but Hola has at most 125 or 130–it goes up to only 4th grade now, 5th next year, I believe. But a third or more of those kids are not Hoboken residents so the Hoboken school board doesn’t fund them; their own school boards do. So the actual number of Hoboken charter kids that we fund is somewhere between 250 and 350. We also fund Hoboken kids who go to charters in Jersey City or elsewhere, but that’s a very tiny number. The $12,000/student number was stated by the business administrator at a board meeting last year, so that number is probably right. So something doesn’t add up here.

CityGirlinHoboken
Member
CityGirlinHoboken

I work in a Hoboken school and all I can tell you is that the waste is outrageous. For example, the classrooms were kept at over 80 degrees all winter (I’m not guessing; we had thermometers), and the teachers had to turn on the air conditioners all day to keep the rooms at a reasonable temperature. I’m not sure what a barrel of oil costs, but it has to be tens of thousands of dollars of waste every winter. The whole issue is disgraceful….there are a million things that could be done to save money in those schools!!!

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