New Jersey district's school budget includes 234 layoffs, 14 percent tax hike

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- The board of education in one New Jersey city has adopted its new school budget, which includes a 14 percent tax hike and 234 layoffs.

The Paterson Board of Education members adopted the $609.9 million budget for the 2019-2020 school year, which provides for the continuation of educational programs and initiatives and critical services for students and families.

Officials say the tax increase amounts to an additional $195.45 on a home at the city's average valuation of $195,000.

"It has been said often that a budget is a reflection of a district's priorities, " Superintendent Eileen Shafer said. "That is not exactly accurate in this case, as we certainly tried to avoid layoffs and discontinuing programs. However, despite increases in mandated expenditures that whittled away most of the increase in state aid to the district, we have managed to formulate a student-focused budget that continues many of the district's educational programs, including those for students with special needs. It also provides critical services that will serve students and their families well."

The 234 layoffs will include 166 teachers, 29 supervisors, 23 vice principals, 11 non-certificated staff, and 5 directors.

The layoffs will start to be announced next week, and the most recent hires are expected to the be the first to go.

"It's a lot of our new, young energetic teachers, the last people that anyone would want to lose," Shafer said. "For me, I don't want to lose any teachers. We need them all."

Additionally, classroom sizes are expected to increase.

"I'm very upset, because the class sizes in our schools, like Martin Luther King, are exploding," said John McEntee, with the Paterson Education Association. "Parents need to understand that these cuts are going to hurt children."

Among the educational programs that will be maintained:
--The K-5 reading program, which will enter into its second phase
--The provision of Advanced Placement (AP) and Dual Enrollment classes
--The launch of the Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone Program
--The launch of the P-TECH at PANTHER Academy program in September
--The expansion of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs

Among the services that will be maintained:
--The Full Service Community Schools medical, counseling and student-support services at those schools where they have been previously available
--Efforts to make up compensatory speech therapy for the special education students on Saturdays and after school
--Medical care provided by at least one school nurse assigned to every school building

Officials say the impact from the loss of personnel will be seen at the school level, and that while district administrators are in the process of developing ways to continue the new academic programs that have been launched, many programs are expected to sustain some degree of interruption. That includes:
--Art and music
--Teacher professional development
--School administration

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