As we enter the budget season for Jersey City Public Schools, I wanted to share some upcoming process info – key dates & timeframes in case it’s helpful for parents and advocates. It’s never too late to get involved.
BOE Budget Process – Working Timeline
This timeline was updated after the budget process concluded. See links to news articles and other resources for more details.
Typically in late February each year, the governor releases the initial budget proposal and that’s when we learn what the state aid numbers will be for that year. For Jersey City, it’s when we learn what the state aid cut will be. State aid – of which Jersey City gets a piece – is part of the Governor’s state budget process (hence Jersey City Public Schools is tied to the state process).
The reduction in state aid, along with the needs defined by Superintendent Walker and the BOE, will inform the local funding mandate for Jersey City.
Learn about state aid cuts and the impact on local paradigm here. What I think is critical in this phase of the process is listening to Mr. Walker and the professional educators about the needs…the diversity of our student population in Jersey City brings with it a diverse set of needs that must be funded via our school levy.
In 2020, the state aid cut to Jersey City was $55 million.
Each year, there are milestone due dates for the schools budgeting process. For reference, here is language from state law that shows some of the constraints the district administration is working within, in terms of budget deadlines and expectations: “18A:22-7.Budgets; preparation. 18A:22-7. The board of education of every school district having a board of school estimate shall prepare and deliver to each member of the board of school estimate, on or before March 22 in each year, and the board of education of every other school district shall prepare a budget for the school district for the ensuing year, on or before March 22.”
On March 20, 2020, the BOE gave initial approval to Superintendent Walker’s $736 million budget. This allowed the budget to go to Hudson County for review and approval. The plan was approved 8-1 with Trustee Alexander Hamilton as the lone dissenting vote. Read more about the meeting and vote here: https://www.nj.com/hudson/2020/03/public-voices-strong-support-for-jersey-citys-proposed-736-million-schools-budget.html
In early May the $736 million budget was approved by unanimous vote. Read about that here: https://www.nj.com/hudson/2020/05/jersey-city-boe-adopts-massive-736-million-budget-for-2020-2021-school-year-amid-covid-19-economic-woes.html
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Why is the school budget important?
A public schools budget is, at its heart, about how collective money (eg property tax dollars) will be used to serve our city’s kids in their schools. Is there enough money to meet the needs? What is it going towards … the classroom? Social and emotional support? After school enrichment programs? Something else? The budget can help inform all of these questions.
What types of meetings are held by the board of education?
There are two main types of meetings: (1) regular monthly meetings and (2) special meetings. Its not atypical during the budget season to have special meetings related to the budget.
What are the monthly meetings like? And where are they held?
Each month, there is a BOE meeting held in two parts, on separate nights:
Monday is the caucus meeting
Thursday is the regular meeting. These are meetings where BOE trustees vote on business.
Public comments are allowed at both meetings. The scheduled list of monthly meetings are here.
Caucus. Caucus meetings are held at Central Office (346 Claremont Ave). This meeting is scheduled for the Monday and intended as prep for the regular meetings when actions (ie votes) are typically taken. Here’s a view of the caucus meeting — it’s a conference room that fits 25-50 people:
Regular meeting. These meetings are held in public school auditoriums (larger spaces for public to gather). The BOE votes on a range of actions at the monthly meetings. Here’s a view of a monthly meeting, from January when Jersey City Together gathered to press for funding for the 2020/21 schools budget.
What are the special meetings like? When do we find out about them?
Special meetings, including budget-specific special meetings, are announced as the process unfolds. For instance, last Wednesday the BOE held its first hearing related to next year’s 2020/21 schools budget; it was a listening session that has been written about here. The district announces these meetings on its website, in local newspapers as required by law, and through its Facebook page.
How can I stay in the loop on advocacy around these meetings?
I recommend plugging into Jersey City Together. This is an organized team of parents, school advocates, and taxpayers who work together to better our schools. Learn more about this advocacy at NJ Together’s education page.