Jul 29, 2014

School Budget Tax Levy Rises to 2.3%

By using funds from 2011-12 banked cap, the district can hire a new second grade teacher at Southern Boulevard School.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the 2012-13 school budget with a tax levy increase of 2.3 percent over 2011-12.

This increase uses allowable funds from last year's banked cap, which raise the tax levy increase over 2 percent without requiring a second vote by residents.

At the March 12 board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Michael LaSusa and the Finance Committee recommended a tax levy increase of 2.16 percent. By raising the tax levy to 2.30, the board will be able to authorize an additional second grade teacher at .

Currently the rising first grade class at SBS has five sections, four with 24 students and one with 23 students. Over the summer of 2011, parents spoke on multiple occassions requesting an additional first grade teacher for the school.

Now, with enrollment for the 2012-13 school year still open and 119 students currently enrolled, the district agreed to find the funds to open an additional section of second grade to help keep class sizes small.

LaSusa said the district could use $76,000 of the banked cap from last year to pay for the salary and benefits for the new teacher. Additionally, funds from retiring staff members can be used to hire new teachers at lower salaries for the incoming kindergarten classes, which are projected to be very high at both Southern Boulevard and .

"If everything remained the same, typically ... we do have some cushion. If we needed to hire an additional teacher at the last minute, we could," LaSusa said.

"However, if kindergarten enrollment grows over what it is currently, then presumably we may have to devote some resources to ensuring the kindergarten numbers are manageable," he said.

By utilizing a 2.30 percent increase in the tax levy, the budget will use $157.978.08 of the banked cap, leaving $517,408.92 for the district to draw on within the next two years.

With a 2.30 percent increase, Chatham Borough residents will have a tax payment increase of $25.61, or $307.34 over the year. Chatham Township residents will pay an increase of $10.14 each month and $121.71 over the year.

LaSusa also said the Finance Committee looked into reinstituting World Languages at the three K-3 schools. The cost to do so would be about $225,000. He said the committee was inclined to not reinstitute World Languages this year, but to make plans to do so in the near future.

The supervisor for World Languages is currently developing a detailed proposal, LaSusa said.

The 2.30 percent increase is lower than the district's average tax levy increase over the past eight school years, which averages out to 5.9 percent.

YearTax Levy Increase2004-05 8.2 2005-06 6.8 2006-07 4.1 2007-08 8.2 2008-09 7.6 2009-10 2.2 2010-11 7.4 2011-12 2.4Average5.9

Matthew Gilfillan, the board's liaison to the Finance and Facilities Committee, said, "I still think we're in a good position in terms of maintaining a consistently-lower [tax] increase that we look for on an annual basis."

Gilfillan said the 2.30 percent tax levy increase allowed for the "flexibility to deal with any issues that might arise in the near term."

This was the board's last vote on the budget. The public will now vote on whether to approve the budget for the 2012-13 school year with a 2.30 percent tax levy increase.

Since the school districts merged in 1988, voters have never failed to approve a school budget.

Election Day is Tuesday, April 17.

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