Board Members Giaimo and Donlon Vote No
MIDDLETOWN, NJ - A very lean budget is on tap for Middletown residents, based on the voting meeting of the board on March 23rd. The meeting video starts below at approximately 1:30. In the meeting, the administrative staff reviewed additional cuts they made to the budget.
"I wanted to update the board after last weeks' discussion on the tentative budget and report back that taking that into consideration, that we've made some revisions and changes to the budget with the goal of reducing the tax levy for the taxpayers for this year - we heard the feedback from the board, and we have made some changes that can accomplish that, so we wanted to review those with the board this evening." said Amy Gallagher, the Business Administrator.
She reviewed the Capital Outlay plan first, which included a host of improvements, including:
- Floor replacement at Nut Swamp
- Generator hookups for various systems throughout the district
- Stage floor refinishing at two elementaries
- Various improvements at New Monmouth
- Replacing alarm panels
- HVAC rooftop projects
The total for capital projects is $1,835,452. Of this amount $1,642,000 will come out of capital reserves. Board member Tom Giaimo expressed concerns during the latter part of the meeting about the low level of remaining capital and maintenance reserves.
To further reduce the tax levy, the district reduced non-instructional salaries/benefits in the amount of $165,457 and 'move purchases of curriculum adoptions and athletic uniforms to 2020-2021 budget' in the amount of $548,932. The total reduction is $714,389.
The board took an aggressive approach in revising the debt service tax levy as well. Debt service savings are often spread over future years. However, in order to drive down the tax impact further, according to the district, "The debt service tax levy for 2021-2022 has been adjusted to reflect the impact of the 2020-2021 debt service savings entirely in the 2021-2022 budget instead of spreading the impact to future years."
The effect on the tax levy impact is significant for residents. The average assessed value home decreases further from a $9.03 annual reduction to a $35.24 annual reduction.
In total, the decrease in the proposed total tax levy is $1,384,773, resulting in a .85 increase overall.
"Less than one percent." according to Gallagher.
Based on an average assessed value of a home at $467,272, the monthly change is $7.42 or $89.13 for the year.
The public hearing on final budget must be held between April 24 and May 7, 2021. The boards voting meeting is on April 27, 2021.
Board member Frank Caputo thanked Gallagher, "I want to add also Amy, I commend you...and think you did a wonderful job."
Board member Giaimo asked if the reserves were now too low. Giaimo noted that previously they were over $700,000 and Gallagher indicated she was concerned even at that time that they were too low. "We are left with a dramatic decrease in the fund balances...the remaining balance in our capital reserve account will be $44,838 and deferred maintenance will have a balance of 117,081. Combined total in our capital and deferred maintenance accounts under the budget that we are reviewing tonight is $161,919.
"I assume that if you were uncomfortable last week with a balance of $705,000 you must be very uncomfortable tonight with what you're presenting." said Giaimo.
Gallagher said, "Yes, it's very low. It doesn't give us anything to fall back on to pull into the budget if something unexpected comes along in the area of facilities maintenance." She emphasized that they need to do what they can to replenish the funds that are being utilized for needed improvements.
The vote for the tentative budget was approved in a split vote with Board Members Giaimo and Donlon voting in the negative.