SPARTA, NJ — Sparta schools are not anticipating cutting any staff or programs in the budget presented by Acting Superintendent at the March board of education meeting.

Despite anticipating a loss in state aid of $217,369 the budget presentation shows decrease in the tax levy of $15.97 per average home assessed at $369,900, with a net percentage increase to the tax levy of 1.2%, though McQueeney said the “numbers have not been finalized.”

The final numbers will be presented at the April 29 meeting, McQueeney said.

The budget was created to meet criteria that included:

  • Continue to improve the quality of educational programs
  • Continue to improve student outcomes,
  • Continue to provide professional development
  • Continue to support social, emotional and mental health of the Sparta Learning Community
  • Continue to fund programs to meet future educational needs and adapt to future mandate requirements

While being fiscally responsible

The presentation did show anticipated expenditures for Curriculum and Instruction as well as Facilities and Infrastructure improvements.  According to McQueeney these include:

Curriculum and Instruction:

  • Response to Intervention and Extended Learning Programs - $300,000 to target support for students before and after school during the school year and over the summer.  Federal grant money will also be used for these programs.
  • AP Incentive Program- $50,000 budgeted and federal grant funding to help offset the cost of AP tests. Each test costs $40 in 2021.  The new high school principal and assistant superintendent will develop the details McQueeney said.
  • Supervisor of District Wellness Program/Clinician — new position
  • District Wellness Clinician- new position
  • Wraparound ALIGN Wellness stipends K-12 — will allow for “licensed clinical professionals to provide sessions and programs after school at all grade levels.”
  • Speech therapist and an English Second Language teacher — they will be assigned according to need.

Chromebook 1:1 Initiative Continuation — $285,500 Replacing approximately 550 chromebooks Staff Device Replacement- $400,000 replacing approximately 350 laptops provided for instruction. “These devices have not been upgraded in more than three years and have made virtual instruction difficult over the past year,” McQueeney said.

Facilities and Infrastructure projects according to McQueeney:

  • Continuation of HVAC replacements at Alpine and Helen Morgan — “from 2020-2021 budget no impact on 2021-2022 budget,”
  • Continuation of playground installation at Mohawk Avenue School — “from 2020-2021 budget no impact on 2021-2022 budget,”
  • High school annex gym bleacher and wall pads — $70,000
  • Tennis court resurfacing — $30,000
  • High school main gym refinishing — $32,000
  • Parking lot repaving Alpine, Helen Morgan, middle school — $385,000
  • New flooring installation Alpine, Mohawk Avenue, high school — $300,000
  • Exterior soffit upgrade Helen Morgan — $100,000
  • Annex student bathroom Helen Morgan — $150,000
  • Interior door replacement Mohawk Avenue — $100,000
  • Sidewalk installation Mohawk Avenue — $72,000
  • Window and door replacement board of education modular — $30,000

The presentation includes contractual expenditures:

  • Salaries increasing 2.4% to $42,356,318
  • Benefits increasing 4.85 to $8,832,963
  • Facilities, Buildings and Grounds decreasing by 3.1% to $5,299,311
  • Transportation decreasing by 2% to $4,541,939
  • Regular Instruction increase by 0.5% to $21,112,808
  • Special Education Instruction increased by 3.0% to $5,840,210

Revenues in comparison to 2020-2021:

  • Local tax levy increase by 2% to $61,060,741
  • State Aid decrease 3.6% to $5,711,899
  • Federal Aid increased by 9.3% to $24,870
  • Fund Balance decrease 1.9% to $881,481
  • Capital Reserve withdrawal decreased by 6.1% to $1,412,000
  • Maintenance Reserve withdrawal increased by 50% to $300,000
  • State and Federal Grants decreased by 15.3% to $1,235,816
  • Debt Service reduced by 6.78% to $5,315,146

The bonds were refinanced to take advantage of lower interest rates, creating taxpayer savings of $417,367.

The items and figures noted in the budget presentation were preliminary and subject to change as the board of education members discussed their priorities and the merits of the proposed budget.

The board of education was required to present and adopt a tentative budget by March 22.  The board of education has to hold a budget hearing between April 24 and May 7. The final budget had to be adopted by May 14. According to the New Jersey Department of Education the gap between the final hearing date and deadline to adopt the final budget is to allow the board of education the opportunity to modify the budget in response to the public hearing.

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