Civic Questions for the Board of Education Upon Passing of their 2019/20 Budget

I wanted to share some civic questions that can be asked on the record or included in an email to the BOE.

Why did five of Board of Education trustees approve a budget that included an incorrect tax base number?

I wrote about this error in detail here, but to quickly recap: the Jersey City Board of Education used an incorrect tax base value in its budget presentation. It then based its estimated per-homeowner school tax increase estimates on that error. This NJ.com report gives the initial report of the error:

“The 2019-20 budget will increase the school tax levy by 10 percent to $136.5 million. The school district says that amounts to a $320 increase for the owner of a home with an average, $439,000 assessment. Local activist group Jersey City Together says that number is really about $155. The group notes that the district’s budget presentation on the tax hike cites the city’s rateable base as $16.7 billion, when it’s actually $34.3 billion.”

 

Did the BOE intend to vote on a ~$12M Levy increase with an average $155/month tax hike per homeowner…
or…
a ~$25M Levy increase with an average $320/month tax hike per homeowner?

As of the writing of this post, the BOE hasn’t explained why it has a $16 billion tax base value in its budget presentation, or if it actually would have been willing to fund a larger levy – in the range of $25 million (at an average homeowner annual hike of $320/year) in stead of a $12 million levy (at an average homeowner annual hike of $155/year).

Why can’t School Board representatives meet with City Council representatives in a public forum?

On May 30th, BOE President Sudhan Thomas and Superintendent Dr. Franklin Walker refused to appear at a public hearing on the city budget, citing legal concerns. The City Council requested their presence after the BOE unanimously passed a resolution at the last BOE public meeting, stating it would seek funds from the city.

Is there precedent in other school districts, whereby BOE officials are restricted from meeting with City Council?

Why propose selling Central Office as a way to raise funds for the 2019/20 schools budget? Why not just raise the school tax levy instead?

We are in year one of 5-6 years of state aid cuts. We lost $27 million this year, and next year we are slated to again lose $25-30 million in state aid. How is selling Central Office a viable idea for the 2019/20 budget? And why isn’t the BOE instead focused on longer-term recurring revenue increases (like school tax levy hikes)?