North Bergen voters to decide on $52 school tax hike


When North Bergen voters head to the polls in school elections next month, they’ll be asked to approve a proposed $48.8 million district-wide budget that would increase the school portion of their property tax bills by $52 for the average homeowner, district officials said.

That’s the dollar amount school taxes would rise under a 4.3-percent increase in the tax rate for the 2017-18 school year for a home assessed at $140,000, said the North Bergen superintendent of schools, Dr.George J. Solter Jr.

School elections are April 25 in North Bergen, one of only two Hudson districts, along with Weehawken, where voters still vote one district budgets and candidates in April rather than November.

Voters defeated by a 4-1 margin, sending it to the Town Council for cuts.

Solter said this year’s proposed tax hike was driven largely by the rising cost of supplies, utilities, and technology — “We’re buying new Chromebooks all the time,” he said — teacher training and salaries, while state aid will be flat.

Salaries for about 720 faculty and administrators will go up under a 3-year teacher contract recently agreed upon by the district and the local bargaining unit of the American Federation of Teachers union.

The deal, which is retroactive to Sept. 1, 2016, and extends to Aug. 31, 2019, provides for raises of 2.9, 3 and 3.1 percent for the current school year and the next two, respectively.

Teachers worked the first half of this year under terms of the previous contract, after negotiations stretched beyond the old deal’s June 30 expiration date. A new deal was reached after a large group of teachers showed up the Board of Education’s Feb. 15 meeting demanding a settlement.

“Settling this contract is a recognition of the excellence of North Bergen teachers and I want to thank every union member who worked together to stand up for a fair contract,” North Bergen Federation of Teachers President Elizabeth Lynch said in a statement last week.

The new three-year deal is the last one before a district-wide reorganization scheduled to take effect in September 2019. The reorganization is intended to alleviate crowding in the 7,800-student district by moving North Bergen High School from its current building on Kennedy Boulevard into what is now Hudson County High Tech High School on Tonnelle Avenue.

The new high school will be for grades 10-12, while the Kennedy Boulevard building will house a new North Bergen Junior High School, for grades 7-9, Solter said. The creation of the junior high school move will allow the district’s six elementary schools each to shed grades 7 and 8, creating more space in those buildings.

The Town of North Bergen is now negotiating the purchase of the high tech school for a price projected to be about $20 million, under a financing arrangement in which the district expected to reimburse the town, Solter said.

The mayor of North Bergen, State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson), also works for the school district, as director or elementary and secondary education, a positionSacco said he will retire from after this year.

The county school district is building a new high school in Secacus, at a projected $160 million.

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