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