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Twp. Schools Drop Budget 1% For '12-'13

Saved state aid in addition to this year's increase softens tax burden.

Now in its second year, Governor Chris Christie’s state-mandated 2-percent tax levy cap has been the concrete ceiling and face when creating a budget.

But for the district, that ceiling was somewhere in the stratosphere, imposing no problems to the budget process.

The proposed tax levy for the district’s 2012-13 budget is actually less than it was in 2011-12–an entire percentage point less–thanks to increased state aid and a surprising extra boost from the governor back in July of 2011.

Next year’s tax levy–being submitted to the county for review on Friday, March 5–is $30,409,527, according to the board’s finance committee chairperson Chance Healy. That’s a decrease of $296,455 from last year’s budget of $30,705,982.

The tax levy is also lower than it was two years ago, when the amount was $30,487,832.

With that decrease comes no personnel or program cuts, Healy said.

“When we began the budget process this year, at the most, we wanted a flat levy,” Healy said. “So when we heard about the increase in aid last week, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to give back to the taxpayers.”

A program will be extended within the sixth grade at Long Valley Middle School, according to superintendent Jeff Mohre. The world languages program, now offered as a 'quint'–36 days of instruction–will be extended to 60 days.

Under the new budget, an additional world languages teacher will be brought in to the district, Mohre said.

The district received a total of $7,997,562, in state aid for 2012-13, a 5.6-percent increase over last year’s original $7,166,698. The district also received an , which brought its total aid up to $7,576,263.

The board decided in July, however, to save all of the $409,565 for the 2012-13 school year budget, which made an impact during creating the new expenditure amount.

Once the county approves the budget, the board will introduce it for a vote at its next meeting on Tuesday, March 13. A public hearing will be presented on Tuesday, March 27 at the Long Valley Middle School.

Tax rate and impact on residents will not be available until after the county’s review, Healy said.

“We’re keenly aware of the economic realities,” Healy said. “And we understand the sensitivities of removing the budget vote. But we hold ourselves to a high standard and worked hard to create this budget.”

Buses on the move

An endeavor still in the works between the district and the township–but one making great progress–is the building of a bus maintenance facility at the on Rock Road.

School facilities manager Burt Horner, transportation director Paul Henry, and DPW Superintendent Scott Frech have all been working closely to iron out details, Healy said. While there is no deadline for the project’s blueprint to be brought to fruition, discussions have moved along, and the board is ready, Healy said.

The total cost to construct the facility would run $750,000, Healy said, which would save the district approximately $115,000 a year. The initial investment would be returned within six years, Healy said.

Current bus maintenance is outsourced and the vehicles are kept at the

Other cost-saving moves, Mohre said, include keeping payroll processes in-house, and the refinancing of debt last year.

roger freiday March 02, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Lower school levy, is good news, now let us ponder HOW MUCH the taxpayer can save if we close one school, to compensate for considerably smaller enrollment. If the Board of Ed builds in new programs and new staff, while touting the ''savings'' the staff and programs will still be here when and if State aid is lowered or eliminated !
Elizabeth March 02, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I am in agreement! Close one of the schools and save the taxpayers an enormous amount of property tax burden now.
Thomas Lotito March 02, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Roger and Elizabeth are right If the BOE was serious they would have closed a school.The 1% is a pittance compared to the amount of money that would be given back if they close a school. The reason they BOE can't close a school is because the BOE doesn't have the courage to stand up to the teaches union on behalf of the taxpayer. In other words, the school is being kept open in order to keep the teachers employed unions happy.(If enrollment is down, why is the BOE hiring four more teachers in the new budget?) What we think in our community does not matter to the BOE and the unions. If you think I'm kidding read my article on what Gov, Scott Walker did with Wisconsin schools. www.wtschools.net
Elizabeth March 02, 2012 at 02:59 PM
The Washington Township Tax Payers need to take action and force the issue. If we all sit back and do nothing, the BOE will feel empowered to run business as usual and that will be at the Taxpayers expense.
Domino March 02, 2012 at 03:04 PM
As usual, Tom Lotito has a lot of armchair solutions. Why don't you put your money where your mouth is and run for the board of education?
Just Sayin' March 02, 2012 at 03:30 PM
I am sorry, but as nice as it has been that our BOE is working/getting along with the Township Committee on shared services, I just don't see the long term benefit of adding a bus maintainance facility! I would like to know how this helps improve our children's education? That is what our School Administrators and BOE are supposed to be doing, correct? That $750,000 would mean more to the children if it were used to bring back our music programming in 4th grade, bring back a choice of 3 world languages (yes, at one time our middle school had 3 languages, right Jason:), expand the G&T programming to all grades as it once was, expand our clubs and extracuricular activities to include more Arts offerings, robotics etc., fix our math curriculum and so on. $115,000 savings is less than 1% of the budget and if we are looking to save this 1% I am sure we could find an administrative position that we could do without and leave the rest for our children! Come on Long Valley, it is great you care about your taxes, but please wake up and see that our children are being short changed by the choices our administration is making on the spending of our tax money that should be going as directly as possible to the majority of the children! Why are our BOE members not speaking up and demanding stronger programming for our students?
Thomas Lotito March 02, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Eliazabeyh, Run for the school board in Nov., a contested race is a loss for BOE incumbents...The only qualification you need is the ability to say NO.
Thomas Lotito March 02, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Leta,the bus depot is all about creating union jobs....employee compensation is the largest portion of the school budget...you've got it right, the only way to close a school is to cut positions....
MTSO March 02, 2012 at 10:17 PM
So, they received about 6% more money this year and reduced the budget 1%...great job. Close a school and provide real tax savings to the public. Everyone also knows that the bus maintenance facility will be a boondoggle to put more people on the payroll. Soon we'll be hearing how other districts will be sending their buses to us to maintain, but it will never happen. It's always cheaper to contract it out.
Angelo March 04, 2012 at 03:18 AM
re: "Current bus maintenance is outsourced and the vehicles are kept at the Long Valley Middle School." Does this mean that buses will continue to be kept at LVMS and only the ones requiring service would be at Rock Road???? It doesn't some like a great idea to in-source bus maintenance to me. Certainly not a core business function for the township. Maybe our town can partner with another town to take it from us...seems like our town is assuming more and more reponsibilities for another town (police, court, etc.)/or service. I wonder who'll be better off in the future, those that gave up those services to us or us for having taken them??
Beach Mover March 04, 2012 at 01:05 PM
The other situation is the savings must have been based on about 3000 students. With about 500 less students we must have have 5 to 10 less buses in our fleet(and maybe less still about 3.5 % less next year according to BOE). We all know the fixed cost stay the same so I am assuming the saving cannot still be $115,000.
Just Sayin' March 05, 2012 at 07:13 PM
No surprise, they were talking at the last meeting about possibly making the facility larger to accomodate other towns. It appeared that they are or soon will be talking with other districts.

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