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Tax Appeals Cost Town $43 Million in Ratables, School Officials Say

Officials outline challenges ahead in creating the district's budget for next school year.

Superintendent Ray Gonzalez / Patch file photo
Superintendent Ray Gonzalez / Patch file photo

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.

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

joann ranalletti January 18, 2014 at 02:06 PM
Why is it that Ms. Stinziano refuse to answer questions by saying,"nothing has been finalized yet." Did not the BOE call for this meeting with the public for input? Should not the President of the BOE be able to answer questions asked of her regarding this very important situation? If you are the President I would think you would have some knowledge about a meeting you are chairing and have opened to the public. Hopefully Ms. Stinziano this is not going to be a pattern!
ALD26 January 18, 2014 at 02:18 PM
Very frustrating across the board. So much money have been spent on programs that are no longer used, but merely a resource, but no one asks these questions. The money certainly isn't lining teachers' pockets...most pay at least 400 out of pocket for supplies each summer. Where is it all going?
Pad January 18, 2014 at 03:07 PM
People are winning tax appeals because the value of their homes has declined. When that happens unless you appeal your taxes you keep paying on the old assessed value. That's why they are winning. A new reassessment would still lower tax revenue because the new assessments would be lower on almost every home. Since 2007 many homes have dropped 100 to 200 K less. Wayne will never stabilize taxes because the BOE and the Township just keep spending more and more, they give the WEA, PBA and other unions practically everything they ask for. Hell before the 2% CAP went into effect the BOE held an emergency meeting with the WEA, allowed them to cancel the remainder of the current contract and vote on a new one so they could exceed the 2% CAP and also their members wouldn't have to pay has much into their healthcare sharing cost. That's the collusion that goes on here!
Patricia Rivera March 25, 2014 at 08:08 AM
We need to continue to speak out against ever increasing taxes in this town, in this county and in this state. Our taxes continue to go up as our home values continue to go down. Not only are we affected by the recession but we are affected by out of control real estate taxes. We elect the Board of Ed and the Township Council to represent us. Do they represent you? When they continue to raise taxes? Many of us unfortunately are not in a position to attend Board or Council meetings. They take our silence as acceptance of their tax increased and policies. I urge you all to speak out. If you are not able to attend meetings because of two jobs, family responsibilities, then post to the Patch, sent letters to the editor of Wayne today, and send emails to our elected officials. Let your voices be heard.

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