BAYONNE, NJ - Knowing that they will likely have to revisit the issue again in August when the state announces its aid to school districts, the Bayonne Board of Education passed  its $164 million 2020-2021 school budget that includes a one-percent increase in local taxes in a split 5-4 vote.

Local taxpayers will pay about $69,754,376 or approximately $700,000 more than they did last year.

But Daniel Castles, business administrator for the district, said the budget is based on state aid figures issued to the district from the state in February, prior to the pandemic, and is a figure that is likely to change. “The Department of Education is giving us guidance to move forward with February’s figures,” Castles said.

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Included in the budget numbers are operating costs, including salaries, benefits, purchased property, and purchased services, with more than 61 percent going to salaries and 17 percent to employee benefits such as health insurance; a special revenue fund made up of mostly of grant dollars including a preschool grant of about $12 million, ESFA fund (funding Title I – IV programs) of just over $3 million, and an IDEA special education supplemental fund of about $1.9 million.

The general fund, Castles said, reflected an increase of about $10 million, of which about $7 million is being paid for by state aid, with some of the remainder being generated from the proposed one percent tax increase.

While the school district has become more dependent on state aid which has increased steadily over the past 10 years, and less on local taxpayers, it is the state that determines what the taxpayers should be paying as part of its fair share formula, local public schools have also maintained among the lowest per student cost in the county. 

The budget, Castles said, was developed with fiscal stability in mind, while also including a number of new initiatives including hiring three new special education teachers, members of a new child study team, new guidance counselors, and one vice principal. It also includes several capital improvements including a boiler replacement, improvements to utilities, ADA compliance projects, and roof repairs.

There are also several new programs funded by the budget, Castles said, adding that he expects additional state funding to help students catch up after the COVID-19 school closures.

Among those voting against the proposed budget was Trustee Joseph Broderick who shared his concern about a changing economic situation that was forcing them to take action based on figures that he believes are already out of date.

Joining him in opposition was Ava Finnerty who said she was worried about additional loss of state aid. “Governor Murphy said there was a significant impact on the state and that it’s too early to announce state aid,” she said. “We are getting crushed right now and I fear the financial future for education.”

Vice President Christopher Munoz, however, emphasized the positives of this budget including the new hires.

The budget now goes to the county superintendent of schools for review and before being acted on for final approval prior to the new deadline of August 31.

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