PATERSON, NJ - On Thursday night Donnie Evans announced he will proceed with the new budget despite the Paterson Board of Education voting it down, and receiving backlash from community activists.
Veteran Board of Education member Jonathan Hodges was the first to raise concerns over this year's budget when it was first announced the budget would be put together behind closed doors by the board President Christopher Irving and the budget committee. Hodges also raised the alarm when a public session to hear budget priorities was canceled. However, the budget was changed without the BOE insight.
Since Paterson Public Schools are under state control, the state has an appointed superintendent that would send the budget to the state commissioner. When Paterson BOE is returned local control, like most public school districts, the superintendent would send the BOE the budget for them to oversee and approve it.
Wednesday night’s vote was symbolic since the BOE can’t really approve the budget, only the state superintendent can approve the budget.
Before the meeting tonight, city residents, such as Corey Teague, were calling on board members to step out of the vote. Teague said that after the vote, he was “surprised.”
“I thought it was going to come down to a 5-4, or 4-4-1 split, or someone was going to walk out. But it was a 9-0 vote,” Teague commented.
Throughout the meeting, BOE members felt that there were many unanswered questions and that there were many last minute items being added into the budget. The budget of $553 million would have cut 208 jobs - with 96 being teaching positions, cut special education spending by 2.2%, and raise property taxes by 2.8%. Superintendent Donnie Evans stated that it would have saved the district $4.3 million by bringing students with disabilities back into the district instead of paying privately-owned schools.
Commissioner Lilisa Mimms, who used Facebook to state her concerns about the budget, stated, “When the Paterson Public school budget increases homeowners taxes by 2.8%, reduces recreation, doesn't include music or art programs, no librarians, no additional Substance abuse counselors, no cursive writing for all students, special education concerns, facility improvements and so much more my vote for this budget is NO!!!!! Our kids deserve a quality education and not crumbs!!!!”
On Thursday night, Evans used his veto power claiming that it was in the “best interests of the district.” This is the second time that Evans has used his veto power to override the board’s vote.