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Washington Twp. School Board: Budget Reflects Commitment to Education, Fiscal Restraint

Letter explains details of proposed 2011-12 budget.

On behalf of the Washington Township School District Board of Education, President Michael Rec sent the following letter to Long Valley Patch:

To residents of Washington Township,

There are three facts that Washington Township voters should remember when they go to the polls on April 27th:  The proposed 2011-2012 total budget (1) is almost $212,000 less than last year, (2) includes a very modest four-tenths of one percent (0.41%) tax levy increase, and (3) delivers a high quality and enhanced curriculum for our high performing district. The board of education and administration have together constructed an efficient budget that balances the need for fiscal restraint and continued educational excellence. I hope you agree. Now, for a bit more detail behind the facts.

The total 2011-2012 proposed budget is $41,410,485, which is $211,964 less than the 2010-2011 budget. This translates into a school tax rate of $1.135 per $100 of assessed real estate, or roughly $20 per year for the average assessed home based on data provided by the Washington Township Municipal Office. Over the past three years, the district has reduced its total spending by more than $1.3 million. One might question the rationale behind the need for a modest tax levy increase in light of a total budget that is considerably lower than last year. The answer rests with the fact that net sources of revenue to the district are down year over year, driven primarily by federal programs and grants.

Although the district continues to experience federal funding reductions in some areas, it has been fortunate to receive incremental funding from the federal and state governments in others.  For example, the federal government granted $291,723 designated for job retention, and the State of New Jersey provided $380,000 more in aid compared to last year. Instead of spending this additional state aid on new projects or programs, the board unanimously voted to apply all of it to significantly reduce the tax levy on its residents.  Legislatively, public employees are now required by law to contribute 1.5% of their salaries toward medical benefits, which translates into added savings for the district. Finally, the board took action last fall to refinance existing district debt service, resulting in additional taxpayer savings of $86,000 in the 2011-2012 budget and $555,000 over the next 13 years.

The board has been able to maintain, restore, and even add programs required to sustain our designation as a high achieving district. The district will maintain its current elementary class size of 18-23 students, and all curricular and co-curricular programs will remain intact for the 2011-2012 school year. Gifted & talented, special education, and English as a Second Language programs will be enhanced in the upcoming year to further evolve learning opportunities for its students. Summer curriculum writing will resume this year across all subject areas in support of the newly adopted State Core Curriculum Content Standards.

In reference to class size, it is important to note that three class sections will be eliminated as a result of an anticipated reduction in enrollment of approximately 100 students for the upcoming 2011-2012 school year. One class section will be added to accommodate a larger incoming 4th grade class, resulting in net reduction of two class sections. Although straightforward math would suggest a reduction of 5 sections based on a target class size of 18-23 students, it is the distribution of enrollment reductions across grades and school locations that influence the districts’ ability to reduce specific sections. In this case, the district was able to reduce three sections while continuing to maintain an elementary class size range of 18-23 students.

This proposed budget reflects our commitment to high quality education and fiscal restraint. Additional detail can be found on the district website at www.wtschools.org under the School Budget tab on left menu bar. Please remember that this year's election will take place on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Polls will be open from 7 am to 9 pm.

Sincerely,

Michael Rec
President, Washington Township Board of Education

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