Controversial vote on Paterson school budget could lead to tax hike, elimination of staff positions

PATERSON, NJ —The fortunes of 29,000 public school students in Paterson, New Jersey came down to a flip-flop vote during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting on the district budget.

Passing a balanced budget was crucial for New Jersey’s third largest city in its attempt to end almost three decades of state control. The bad news is that the budget will trigger a 14 percent property tax hike and the elimination of more than 200 staff positions, including at least 120 teachers.

"We are still on our way to local control, which is important to the community," said Superintendent Eileen Shafer.

Before the budget passed, Rosie Grant of the non-profit Paterson Education Fund, offered a grim assessment of what Paterson stands to lose, all in the name of escaping state control, which, it should be noted, amounts to 85 percent of the district’s total funding.

"My concerns are the class sizes are going to go up," one Paterson parent said. "More kids are going to continue to drop out because a lot of kids are auditory and visual learners, so there are some kids who are not going to be able to keep up. They're barely keeping up now. So what happens when you add more kids into the mix?"

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