NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The city Board of School Estimate unanimously approved a $172 million budget for the 2011-12 school year with no teacher layoffs or cuts in programs.

The spending plan was approved before a near-empty city council chamber at a public hearing on Thursday, Mar. 7.

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While the initial estimate for a tax increase was set at $90.84 for the average city home, assessed at $117,000, the final budget will add just $41.32 to the annual tax bill.

With $27 million to be raised by taxes, the average annual tax bill will go from $2,567 to $2,608. Officials noted the rate increase was due to a slight drop in property tax ratables.

The budget, which is up $4 million from the current year, includes $143.4 million in operating expenses, including $102 million for staff salaries and benefits. It also includes $116 million in state aid and $13 million in federal aid.

City resident David Harris asked if there was a specific line item for the Health Sciences Technology High School, which serves students pursuing careers in the health sciences, and voiced concern about Innovative Education Programs LLC, which operates the school.

City Schools Superintendent Richard Kaplan said that due to state requirements, the tech high school’s budget was covered under three different line items covering the students, the building, and staff and school supplies.

“They (IEP) provide services we contract for. The school is hugely successful. Most of the students with few exceptions go on to higher education,” Mayor Jim Cahill said, also noting the facility is also supported through a partnership with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

The appointed Board of School Estimate, which is chaired by the mayor, decides the tax levy based on a budget submitted by the appointed school board. Voters in New Brunswick do not have voter approval of school budgets.