To All WCL Residents:
There will be a Special Election on September 28, 2010 between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the regular school board election polling places (Dorchester School for Woodcliff Lake) for registered voters to support the joint referendum requests of both the Montvale and Woodcliff Lake local School Boards of Education (pre K to 8) and the Mayors and Councils to reinstate the original budget funding formula voted on and unanimously approved by the voters at the inception of the Pascack Valley Regional High School in 1955 which was changed in 1979.
The original budget funding formula, which served all four towns well for 25 years, was based on one average cost per student times the number of students attending from each sending town. The logic was obvious since the number of students attending school is the primary cost-driver in the budget. Each town paid the same amount per student and the only variable was the number of students attending. In 1979, in a misguided attempt to respond to an earlier N.J. Supreme Court decision involving Jersey City called Robinson vs. Cahill, the State of N.J. Legislature reasoned that historically N.J. public schools have been principally financed from local property taxes and; therefore, all regional school cost allocation formulas should be based upon the ratio of the aggregate assessed property values of the sending towns. Budget allocation formulas not conforming (the majority of regional schools) should be revised. Unfortunately it was not until 1994 that the State legislature acknowledged the error of their decision and started to allow regional districts to use cost per student formulas again, if all the participating towns agreed.
As a result of the State’s misguided 1979 decision the cost per student for our four towns became significantly different resulting in the current cost per student:
Town # of Students % Cost per Student
Hillsdale 642 31% $14,840
Montvale 454 22% $21,899
River Vale 568 28% $16,653
Woodcliff Lake 388 19% $28,521
When Dr. Ben Tantillo, the former Superintendent, was asked why the students from Montvale and Woodcliff Lake cost so much more to educate, he responded, “They don’t, they all cost the same. It’s the formula!”
Under the current formula there are two big differences from the original formula: the number of students each town sends does not influence what the sending town pays since the annual operating budget is allocated based on the ration of the aggregate assessed property values of each sending town. See table below.
Town Equalized Aggregate Assessed Values %
Hillsdale $2,033,971,000 23.8%
Montvale $2,218,415,000 24.9%
River Vale $2,167,350,000 23.6%
Woodcliff Lake $2,331,359,000 27.7%
$8,751,095,000 100 %
Unfortunately for Montvale and Woodcliff Lake the aggregate assessed property values using in the formula include commercial ratable (principally office buildings) which do not generate students. Woodcliff Lake sends only 19% of the students but pays 28% of the total school budget. Hopefully, you are now starting to get the picture of the distortions created under the 1979 formula revision.
Hillsdale and River Vale have been the beneficiaries of the current formula because of the greater number of students attending the Pascack Valley Regional High School District from their towns and the lower ratio of commercial to residential ratable compared to Montvale and Woodcliff Lake.
The upcoming Special Election is the opportunity for the residents of all four towns to show their support for a change in the formula or to maintain the status quo. If this referendum is approved, we would return to the original approved budget formula resulting in an annual property tax reduction of $1,300 for the average (assessed value of $624,000) home in Woodcliff