NEWTON, NJ- The were few surprises in the Newton Board of Education budget, approved at the meeting on April 28.
The district will be increasing the levy by $968,982, impacting the average assessed home of $185,150 by $126. The levy will increase $68 per $100,000 of assessed value according to Business Administrator Alfred Savio’s budget presentation.
This year the district will be exceeding the 2% levy cap, making use of banked cap.
Decreased regular education tuition due to decreased enrollment from Andover and Green and a downward adjustment from last year’s tuition mean a decrease in revenue of $1.2 million. The initial budget also called for an increase in $1.2 million, leaving a total budget shortfall of $2.4 million, according to Savio.
In the past two years, the district has used increased state aid to offset the levy increase, presenting a budget under the 2% cap. This year the district will be using banked cap funds to exceed the 2% levy cap to make up for some of the budget shortfalls.
Banked cap funds represent the difference between the actual levy increase and the allowable 2%. Money not spent in previous budgets accrue in a “cap bank.” These are not actual dollars but a credit the district can use to exceed the 2% levy cap in a future budget. The funds have a shelf life of two years in the “bank.” If they are not used, the opportunity to exceed the levy cap goes away.
The remaining budget gap will be handled with cuts:
- Three teachers, one from Merriam Avenue and two from Newton High School - $300,000
- One English Second Language teacher (proposed) -$100,000
- Two teacher assistant positions –$38,000
- Non personnel cuts - $658,702
- Laptop and chromebook replacements -$113,000
Student populations from the sending districts will be decreasing for the sixth year in a row, according to Greene. The students’ needs are also changing with “economically disadvantaged population” approaching 50%. School officials report English language learners, students for whom English is not their primary language, has nearly quadrupled in two years.
Most of the district’s budget is for contractual and mandated obligations. Increases to the budget that are required:
- Increased health benefit costs $533,743
- Increased salaries $431,597
- PSD Teacher $73,816
- Increased FICA, PERS, Workers Comp $59,891
- Increased software licenses costs $59,891
- Replace aged-out bus $50,000
- Increased substitute costs $29,430
- Increased OT/PT/Speech services $24,857
- Increased insurance costs $18,597
- Security Monitor position $18,780
The presentation explained the tax levy gap has narrowed significantly from $4.3 million in 2018 to $1.6 million in 2021. This has been achieved, according to Superintendent Kennedy Greene through their lobbying efforts, bringing in additional $1.5 million in state aid.
The tax levy gap represents the difference between what the state has deemed is the Town of Newton property taxpayers’ “Fair Share” contribution to the levy and the actual tax bill.
Savio’s budget presentation explained property values have increased by 6.0% since 2016 and local income has grown from 2014 to 2017 by 49.7%.
The New Jersey Department of Education establishes minimum standards for school districts to meet the educational and physical needs of students. These standards are called Thorough and Efficient Education standards. The state also sets an expected budget per pupil to achieve those “T and E” standards.
Newton’s T and E “adequacy” spending is at 92.3%. Newton should be spending 7.7% more to reach adequacy, according to state standards. The gap has increased since Fiscal Year 2019. Last year the district was at 94.5% adequacy.
The next Newton Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12 beginning at 7 p.m.
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