New Providence Could See $106 School Tax Hike

New Providence school board president John Wolak Credits: Michael Daigle

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Residents could see an estimated $106 tax increase in the 2012-13 school budget, the school board was told Thursday.

Finance committee chairman Adam Smith presented the outline of the $33 million proposed budget that, thanks to a vote taken at the last school board meeting, will not be presented  to voters for approval as in the past.

The New Providence school board was one of many across the state which voted in the past two weeks to shift the annual school board election to November, when the general election is held.

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The new date means that school board candidates will be on the ballot, but the annual budget will not. Instead, the school board is planning  a March 22 public hearing on the spending plan, at which it plans to vote on the budget.

Resident Pat Moschetti Thursday expressed his displeasure with the board’s vote to shift the election date.

He said that when the school board  voted to close the Hillview School, the discussion took many weeks, and when the board chose to move the middle school grades to the high school, that discussion also took many weeks and was discusssd in public  hearings.

“But you decided this last change in nine days,” he said. “What process did the board take between Jan.17 and Jan. 26? This is very unusual.”

Board president John Wolak said the issue was discussed in public at the last regular meeting of the board and a vote was taken.

After the meeting, Moschetti said, “that is called railroading.”

In his review of the budget, Smith said the estimated operating budget for 2012-13 is $33.428 million, up from $32.209 million last year.

Expenses are up 3.87 percent, but the tax levy is estimated to increase 1.87 percent next year. The total tax levy is estimated  to  be $31.296 million, up from $30.722 million last year, Smith said.

Driving the increase, he said, are the hiring of a full-time employee at the elementary grade level, and the change of two part-time employees to full time  to serve special needs students.

In addition, Smith said, the assistant superintendent position that was reduced to an 80 percent position last year, will be restored to full time.

When Moschetti asked why the change was made, Superintendent David Micelli said that administration of the new anti-bullying law, and the reform-based mandates issues by state government require more record keeping and adminsitration. Those tasks fall to the assistant superintendent, he said.

Other cost drivers in the proposed budget, Smith said, are a projected 18 percent increase in health care premiums and the cost of replacing  the home-team bleachers at the football field.

The district’s portion of the health care cost  increase is expected to be 10.8 percent because all district employees will be contributing to their own health care costs, Smith said. The bleacher replacement has been urged by the district’s insurance company for years, he said. The visiting side bleachers will be replaced in the future.

The district is also expecting a $290,000 expense to sent 40 students to the county’s magnet school.

The district will save $18,000 on its electric bill once the solar panels are installed at the high school, and the district will apply $322,700 in state aid received  last year after the budget was struck, Smith said. The district is anticipating  $645,000 in state aid for the 2012-13 budget year.

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