"I would like to think we won't have any cuts or layoffs but unfortunately I don’t think that is the case.”
president of the Gloucester City Education Association
by William E. Cleary Sr.
GLOUCESTER CITY NJ (CNBNews.net)Gloucester City residents should prepare themselves for another increase in school taxes. According to School Board member William Johnson Jr., a member of the Finance Committee, the district has a $5 million deficit. He said that amount has been reduced some as the district used several million from the budget reserve. Johnson said even so the remaining deficit is still high.
Johnson said this is his first year on the finance committee and he is still learning about the budget process.
“At this time I don’t have the exact amount that we were able to reduce this year’s budget using the surplus funds.”
Gloucester City school taxes have increased each year for the last five years according to data released by the Gloucester City Tax Office.
The school tax for the preceding 5 years were:
- 2014 Rate = $1.130 per $100. Total dollars raised $3,998,954.00. Increase = $ 25,608.00
- 2013 Rate = $1.123 per $100. Total dollars raised $3,973,346.00. Increase = $ 71,817.50
- 2012 Rate = $1.098 per $100. Total dollars raised $3,901,528.50. Increase = $ 38,330.00
- 2011 Rate = $1.083 per $100. Total dollars raised $3,863,198.50. Increase = $101,892.46
- 2010 Rate = $1.052 per $100. Total dollars raised $3,761,306.04. Increase = $261,615.72
The 2015 tax rates have not been determined yet. This usually is done by the County Board of Taxation in June or July of each year.
Gloucester City’s school budget last year was *$46,614,432.
Johnson said, “For the last three or four years the amount of money the district receives from the state has remained flat, at $30 million. Because we are a **Abbott District, the state mandates certain programs. Some of the programs they fund, but there are others that we are required to keep that they don’t fund. That is one of the reasons we are facing a deficit.”
Johnson said he was concerned about future deficits and mentioned the operating costs for the new Middle School.
“We have been told several times by Facilities Director John Kenney to expect it to cost approximately $500,000 annually to maintain it. We have such a large deficit now how will we pay an additional $500,000 in the future? ”
Construction of the $87.5 million school started this month and is expected to be finished by September 2017. The 122,000 square foot facility will be used to educate 687 students in grades 4 through 8. The original amount budgeted by the SDA for the construction of the school was $76 million. (See Project Description HERE)
One of the rumors circulating is the school board, in order to cut expenses, is planning to lay off full-time employees and hire them back as part-time. Supposedly the district would save the cost of medical insurance for every employee that works less than 30 hours a week.
We contacted Gloucester City School Superintendent Joseph Rafferty about that rumor. We also asked him for the total amount of this year’s budget. Rafferty said we should attend this Tuesday’s meeting. “At which time the Board of Education will discuss details associated with the 2015-16 school budget.”
We also spoke with John Rodden, the president of the Gloucester City Education Association. He said recently every city school teacher received a ***Rice letter from the school superintendent. “Basically a Rice letter is a notification that the Board may terminate an employee’s position. That meeting between the union members and the board was held last Thursday.”
“There are a lot of rumors circulating. I don’t want to speculate about what is going to happen. I would like to think we won't have any cuts or layoffs but unfortunately I don’t think that is the case.”
According to the district’s website the school board (taxpayers) employ 385 employees.
Rodden said he expects the amount of this year’s budget will be announced at Tuesday’s board meeting along with what cuts are going to be made.
“The state isn’t contributing any more money to the district. And we are sending more special needs students out of the district. And those costs have risen. We are also faced with declining enrollments because Brooklawn isn't sending as many students to attend Gloucester High School."
Johnson said this budget deficit is going to have an effect on everyone; that includes administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians and taxpayers. “From the top to the bottom everyone is going to feel it.”
The most recent data released by the State Department of Education reveals the average spending per student in New Jersey school districts was $19,000 in 2013-14, up slightly from the year before.
The same report discloses the cost of educating a student in Gloucester City Public Schools was $23,680 and increase of $500 over the previous fiscal year. In comparison Haddonfield taxpayers paid $14,906 per student, Collingswood taxpayers paid $19,041 per student, Audubon paid $18,166 per student, Camden City $26,998.
The 7pm Tuesday meeting will be held in the Gloucester City High School Media room. The public hearing on the budget is May 7 same time same place.
*May 2014 Board of Education minutes
**Abbott Districts are now are now referred to as "SDA Districts" based on the requirement for the state to cover all costs for school building and renovation projects in these districts under the supervision of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.
***Rice v. Union County Regional Board of Education,
155 N. J. Super . 64 (App. Div. 1977) Board employees were entitled to reasonable notice of board's intention to discuss their termination.