School Taxes Could Rise in $90.5M Spending Proposal
Cuts to busing, outsourcing staff under consideration, officials say.
District officials have released a preliminary $90.5 million school budget, which calls for a $120 increase in taxes.
Business Administrator Robert Finger stressed the increase was for "discussion purposes" and the tax impact rests, in part, on if the district receives $5.26 million in state aid.
State officials told Teaneck the district could expect a $173,357 increase in state aid, but the number was not guaranteed, Finger said. Aid for special education students and non-public transportation was expected to decrease.
"Even though we have more students and even though we have more expenditures, the amount of aid that we're going to get from the state is going to come down," Finger said.
The preliminary budget proposal includes a $79.3 million tax levy, a $1.56 million increase from last year. The average Teaneck homeowner assessed at $465,300, could pay $120.58 more in school taxes.
The school board has already prepared possible cost-saving measures if the district faces a drop in state funding, Finger said. Cutting some administrative jobs, reducing courtesy busing, and outsourcing substitute teachers and paraprofessionals were some options being considered.
"The key through all of this is not impacting the education of the students directly," Finger said.
The district could achieve up to $125,000 in savings by only busing students who live more than 1.3 miles from school, Finger said. Currently, students who live more than 0.9 miles away are eligible for busing.
Finger said the district could also tier non-public school bus routes, but it would require schools to voluntarily change arrival and dismissal times.
The largest expense is $48.9 million in salaries, and the budget includes a 1.5 percent pay increase for teachers. Teaneck's teaching staff work under a contract that expired in 2011 and have recently held protests over the talks. Efforts to reach a new deal in mediation have failed.
Administrative expenses were anticipated to increase by $49,053, to $1.38 million, Finger said. About $40,000 was for increased Internet bandwidth.
Finger said the district planned to install wireless Internet access across all township schools, undertake an asbestos abatement project at Hawthorne Elementary School and resurface parking lots at Benjamin Franklin Middle School and the Eugene Field Administration building.
Educational initiatives, including new textbooks along with math and literacy programs, will cost $335,000, according to Finger's budget presentation.
Finger said $1.4 million set aside last year for the Shalom Academy Charter School was able to be allocated for other areas. The Hebrew immersion school never opened and filed a lawsuit against the state after its charter was denied.
Sebastian Rodriguez, a school board member, said the district continually faced cuts in state funding.
"It just doesn't get any easier year after year. It's not just looking at numbers," he said. "You have to balance how do you keep taxes low while, at the same time, making cuts that have the least impact on the education of our students, while at the same time state aid continues to go down."
State aid figures will be released Feb. 28. The school's budget will be introduced March 4 and a public hearing is set for March 27.