Paterson schools risk significant layoffs

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PATERSON – The school district's budget crisis could lead to more than 200 layoffs and the elimination of education programs launched this year to address Paterson's chronic problems in mathematics and reading, officials said Wednesday.

Superintendent Eileen Shafer said the district should also relinquish elementary school art and music teachers hired by the district in September. In one case, she said, a school group created this year may have to be dissolved.

"It's so unfair to these children," said Shafer, after describing the district's budget situation as "worse than I've ever seen it."

Business administrator Richard Matthews told the school board that the budget deficit he had discussed Monday night was reduced to $ 22 million as a result of cuts the next two days. He said that reducing the rest of the gap would probably require staff cuts.

"We are short of options to close this gap," said Matthews.

The district has not yet begun to review specific positions that could be threatened, but Shafer said the closure of a $ 22 million deficit would result in 220 job cuts if each position was rated 100 $ 000.

"It has to be done at all levels – from top to bottom – it can not act solely on teachers," Shafer said.

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Jonathan Hodges, a former board member, said the district had begun to improve student performance. He said the district needed to find ways to achieve budget cuts with the least possible impact on classroom instruction.

Shafer said the district's budget problems stemmed from the fact that the government of former governor Chris Christie had granted Paterson $ 280 million less to finance his studies during his eight-year tenure. She stated that this resulted in more than 500 layoffs during this period.

"We have never recovered from that," said the superintendent.

The board plans to hold its next discussion on its preliminary budget, which currently stands at $ 542 million, at a special meeting scheduled for next Monday. The board conducted a lengthy discussion on Wednesday over whether fiscal issues should delay the district's plans to create new secondary schools for immigrants who speak Spanish, Bengali and Arabic as the main language. rather than English.

The fiscal crisis exceeds spending cuts. The inhabitants of the city are facing a 14% tax increase with preliminary figures. The school tax bill for a house valued at $ 190,000 would rise from $ 1,371 to $ 1,561, according to district financial reports.