The loss of $43 million in tax ratables, rising salaries, and unfunded state mandates are all factors working against district officials as they create a budget for the 2014-15 school year.
The Board of Education hosted a public meeting Thursday about the budget creation process and heard from residents about what they think should be done next year.
The township lost nearly $43.8 million in ratables due to tax appeals from 2013 to 2014, said Juanita Petty, business administrator. The town’s tax base went from $5.188 billion to $5.144 billion. The average Wayne home’s value decreased $600 in that same time to $228,200. The township provided Petty with those amounts.
Because the township operates on a calendar year from January to December and the school district on a fiscal year, from July to June, officials use a split year tax levy, the amount of the budget raised by local taxes, is used to determine the tax rate; half the levy is used with data from the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014, Petty said.
Using this method and the $43.8 million loss of ratables means that school taxes for the average homeowner would increase $119 year over year.
The tax levy has steadily increased since the 2009-10 school year when it was $116.9 million to $130.4 million this year, an 11 percent increase.
Officials have begun to negotiate with the teachers’ union, the Wayne Education Association. Eighty percent of the district’s current $141.1 million budget, $113 million, pays for salaries and benefits. All negotiated contracts are “subject to increase” for the next school year, Superintendent Ray Gonzalez said.
Residents spoke out about the fact that the state continues to put pressure on local school boards to enact mandates like the state’s new anti-bullying policy but not provide the money to fund them.
“When are we going to say enough is enough with unfunded mandates?” one resident asked. “When have we had enough? When do we say: ‘you want us to do it, you give us the money’?”
Gonzalez said the numbers are continually being worked on and examined.
The district’s preliminary budget will be presented at a special meeting Feb. 13. The preliminary budget will be adopted Feb. 27. It will then be sent to the Passaic County Department of Education for approval. The Board is slated to adopt the final budget March 27.
Board President Laura Stiziano refused to answer questions after the meeting because “nothing has been finalized yet," she said.