LIVINGSTON, NJ – The 2012-2013 Livingston School District budget was approved unanimously after a public hearing Monday night.
The new budget totals $104,286,065 - a $2,660,834 increase from the previous year - and sees a local tax levy of $96,389,153 which makes up more than 92 percent of the total budget.
The tax impact is based on the average home in Livingston which is valued at $608,270 as explained by Livingston School Board Administrator Steve Robinson. The tax levy on the general fund is $90,955,519, which is a nearly $900,000 increase from the previous year. A $74 impact is based on the general fund increase, he said.
The ratable base went down $154,296,500 from 2011 through 2012, about a 2.1 percent reduction. The tax impact based on the ratable decrease is $164.
“We have been getting very little in return on our ratables over the last year. A lot of money is taken out and not a lot is being put back in,” he said.
The budget is $915,635 below the state mandated two percent cap. Robinson said that although the budget vote is out of the hands of the public since school board elections have been moved to November, the district has tried to do what is necessary to keep the budget under cap and was able to do so.
That $915,635 can be banked and used within a period of three years.
Aside from taxes, the biggest money expenditure in the budget comes from state aid.
“Two years ago that sliver of state aid was very close to zero. We’re thrilled to have it at 3.2 (percent), but it’s still less than it was four years ago,” Superintendent of Livingston School’s Brad Draeger said.
According to Robinson, 71.9 percent of the money appropriated in the 2012-2013 will go toward instruction and support services, including education, and 7.6 percent will go toward operation and plant maintenance and 6.4 percent will go toward debt service.
Draeger was optimistic about the fact that Livingston can spend less money than many surrounding districts, but still provide many programs, activities and other amenities that they cannot. Livingston has spent less than the state average for the last three years.
These initiatives include a full day kindergarten, providing a nurse in every school, co-curricular activities, a free gifted and talented art and music program and a world language program that once again include grades K-3 (this was taken out a couple of years ago because of budget cuts), among many others.
A full list of these initiatives along with AP and HSPA testing results, strategic plan strands and staffing changes can be found here.
“We have more students performing higher than ever before. We’re doing above average academic achievement and performance,” Draeger said.
Livingston is also planning on expanding special education programming effective next school year. These include a transition autism program for kindergartners going into the first grade, an elementary school autism program and a middle school autism program.