School Budget Ups Average Property Tax Bill by $53
Tentative $114 million budget is under state's 2 percent cap
Property taxes on an average township home will rise $53 under the terms of a tentative $114.58 million budget approved by the board of education on Monday night.
Superintendent of Schools Jorden Schiff said the budget is $425,000 under the state-mandated cap. State aid to the district increased by $13,000.
The property tax rate will rise from $1.53 per $100 of assessed value to $1.467. That means taxes on the average Hillsborough home assessed at $368,700 will rise $53.
In Millstone, because of a decrease in ratables, taxes on an average home valued at $320,748 will rise by $117 as the tax rate rises from $1.48 per $100 of assessed value to $1.52.
The current expense budget will go up 1.48 percent from approximately $107 million to $109 million.
Helping to keep the budget increase under 2 percent is an anticipated $900,000 savings realized in transportation costs if the middle school opens a half hour earlier, and a reduction in debt service.
Also keeping costs down is the switch to a new health insurance carrier, Dr. Schiff said, and more use of shared services and cooperative purchasing.
The budget provides the expansion of Chinese classes at Auten Road Intermediate School and the high school, implementing Phase II of the One to One pilot plan to hike the number of students receiving a tablet computer from 10 percent to 20 percent, embarking on an energy savings plan and starting a new teacher and administrator evaluation process mandated by the state.
Also in the budget are two more special education teachers, more technological positions to support software, hardware and training and three clerical positions.
However, some board members were not satisfied that an education committee recommendation to hire five additional math teachers at the high school was not included in the budget. Concerns about math at the high school arose after it was learned that half of Hillsborough students going to Raritan Valley Community College had to take remedial math classes.
Dr. Schiff said the teachers were not a “must have” priority and would have been considered for the budget if the district had received more state aid.
Sixth-grade teacher Kelly Villano asked why the budget was not at cap. “Why haven’t we taken advantage of it?” she asked.
Board member Chris Pulsifer introduced an amendment to add $250,000, saying the district is “going backwards.”
“There is money on the table,” he said.
“The last place I’m going to shortchange is my children’s education,” Pulsifer said.
The inclusion of the math teachers would hike the average annual property tax bill by $12, board member Lorraine Soisson.
But board member Greg Gillette disagreed with Pulsifer. “We’re not going backwards,” Gillette said. “We’re going forward.”
Gillette said that $425,000 “is not a lot to give back” to taxpayers. He also said that the amount of the budget under the cap can be “banked” if the district faced a budget squeeze in the future.
Gillette said that problems with the district transportation costs began when Auten Road became an intermediate school and may have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Gillette said the district’s new transportation director found the savings by changing the opening time at the middle school.
But Pulsifer’s amendment failed and the budget as originally presented by the superintendent was passed.
A final board vote on the budget will be held on March 21, follwoing a public hearing.
Because the budget is under the state cap and the board voted to move the school board election to November, new state law says the spending plan does not have to go before township voters.