BOE to use lion’s share of state aid for tax relief

WEST ORANGE — The Board of Education announced that $3 million of the $3.5 million the district will receive in state aid will be used as immediate tax relief for West Orange residents. As a result, the tax levy for the school district portion of property taxes will be lowered 0.49 percent for the upcoming school year, according to a July 30 press release from the BOE. The average homeowner will see a decrease of $91.25 in their yearly tax bill.

According to the release, this is the second year in a row that the BOE has lowered taxes. In 2017, they returned $500,000 of $1.5 million in state aid to taxpayers.

The $3.5 million received is a state-aid increase of 43.8 percent from last year and comes after Gov. Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill No. 2, updating the 2008 School Funding Reform Act. The SFRA distributes funding to school New Jersey public schools based on school enrollment and other factors, and the new law phases in more state funding over a period of seven years.

“The West Orange Board of Education is thankful for this additional state aid, as it will allow us to continue being a premier school district and to provide tax relief for the residents of West Orange,” BOE President Ron Charles said in the release.

Charles did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Superintendent Jeffrey Rutzky also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

At the BOE meeting on July 16, Charles pointed out that while the increase in state aid for West Orange is a good thing, the district is still receiving significantly less than surrounding Essex County towns. Belleville is receiving $28 million, Bloomfield is receiving $24 million, Irvington is receiving $117 million, East Orange is receiving $176 million and Newark is receiving $787 million.

Residents had asked the BOE to use the state funding for tax relief at the July 16 meeting.

“We haven’t gotten much state aid in recent years and it’s because sales tax revenue and income tax revenue for the state hasn’t been where it should be, so the state didn’t have it to give,” Adam Kraemer said at the meeting. “If the economy cools down in the future we could be in the same boat. So use caution in thinking you’re going to have state aid and don’t go on a spending spree.”