The Jersey City Board of Education will host a special meeting with the City Council on Wednesday to help find ways to solve the school district’s budget crisis.
Both nine-member elected bodies will meet in person at the Hank Gallo Center at Lincoln Park at 6 p.m. While the public cannot be present at the meeting, it will be streamed live on the school district’s Facebook page.
The public will be able to call in for comment, the school district’s notice said.
Board President Mussab Ali said the rare meeting was called to lay out the depth of the school district’s budget woes and to give both the city councl and public the school board’s perspective.
Ali pointed out that the school district has been underfunded for the past 13 years by the state’s school formula, which decides how much state aid districts receive. He said the kids graduating high school this year have never had a fully funded school.
“That is an entire generation that was completely deprived of understanding what it means to have a fully funded district,” Ali said. “I think a lot of people have a misconception about the board of education that we are wasteful spenders.”
The board has initially approved an $812 million budget for the 2021-22 school year, which would raise homeowners’ taxes nearly $1,000 annually.
The board has been forced to raise taxes because of the state-mandated reduction of more than $200 million in state aid over seven years. The state cut $3 million in 2018-19, $27 million 2019-20, $55 million in 2020-21 and another $71 million reductions is expected for the 2021-22 school year.
Council President Joyce Watterman said the first thing both elected bodies have to agree to is working together. She said people are under the impression that the city council knows everything going on with the schools.
“Before we can say we can do anything, we first have to understand everything,” Watterman said.
Ali said Mayor Steve Fulop will not be attending. Ali added that the council president suggested the legislative bodies meet first.
“We want everybody to have input,” Watterman said.