LITTLE FALLS, NJ - The Passaic Valley Regional High School (PVHS) Board of Education held a public hearing and adopted its 2017-2018 school budget on April 25. The total budget amount approved stands at $29,922.708.

The board decided to move the annual general election for board members to November the past six years, per state legislation allowing school boards to only go to voters if the tax levy to support a budget exceeded the state cap of 2 percent.

The spending plan reflects an increase of 2 percent of the total budget from last year's amount, according to Colin Monahan, business administrator. Monahan gave a budget presentation at the board meeting, along with Dr, JoAnn Cardillo, superintendent.

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All three sending districts would sustain an increase to their high school portions of their property taxes. The budget would bring a tax increase of.04  in Little Falls, resulting in $57.89 additional annually on the average home assessed at $303,700.  In Totowa, the tax increase is .016 amounting to $26.29 more annually on the average home assessed at $395,300. In Woodland Park, the tax increase amounts to .015  resulting in $25.88 more annually on the average home assessed at $344,741.

The tax levy, which is the portion of the budget to be paid by taxes, is $25,250,755. The state aid amount stands at $1,013,467.

"The amount of state aid is flat funded again for the second year," Monahan said, adding that Passaic Valley receives the lowest amount of state aid of any regional school in Passaic County.

"We're going to look into it and will be hopefully meeting with an assemblyman to try to speak with him so he can give us some ideas," he said.      

Monahan added that the budgeted fund balance, which requires schools by law to put back into the budget is $1,459,008. 

 "That's broken up by the surplus we had at the end of the school year, which is a pretty strong surplus," he commented.

  Monahan also added that the revenue sources, in addition to just the tax levy, include tuition of $325,000 from five special education children in the autism program. 

  "Last year we had that number at about $250,000 so we're growing there and we are looking at that we made add one or two more students," he explained. "So that number may go up a little higher next year so that might be extra surplus for the 2018-2019 school year. Extraordinary aid is money we get from extra services for special education, which is at $125,000 this year.".

   Federal and state grants amount to $404,000. Debt service aid is at $208,204. 

   "The other figure at $35,000 is money we get from the cafeteria. It's probably the first time in many years that we had capital reserve interest, which totals $700. We have a lot of capital projects coming," he noted.

   The high school has also partnered with Millennium Grant Writers and has currently applied for five grants and received one in the amount of $2,000. The high school also partnered with the Township of Little Falls for an Open Space Grant up to $220,000 for the refurbishment of the running track. The high school received private grants for the courtyard projects from BASF ($5,000), Kohl's ($3,000), the Landsberger Foundation ($7,500).

   "We may not receive all that money but if we can even receive half of that the revenue that can go back into our budget capital projects, and capital reserves, we can do some more planning for the future," he further explained.

   The high school also completed its selling of a portion of land to ShopRite for $700,000 and the board created an ad hoc committee to address the needs of the school. The committee recommended the monies be budgeted for education, technology, facilities and security.

  Also reported was the pay off of debt service, which resulted in decreased taxes from renovations and school upgrades stemming from 2003 and 2010.

   "The one for 2003 will be paid off in 2018, so that will be nice to get that off the budget books," he added. "Those projects came under budget, so it does decrease the taxes a bit."

   Expenditures in the budget include programs such as guidance and health services and media totaling $14,466,175.Special education amounts to $5,842,399. Athletics and student activities equals $1,213,991. Transportation costs are $1,832,401 and facilities, which includes salaries, amounts to $2,968,630.Operational cost and administration totals $1,772,113, where he said the high school was well below the state average costs.

   "Capital outlay is a new bullet this year of $623,234," he said, adding that it includes projects, equipment and a 28-seat passenger school bus. He also said that within the first year, the high school should be able to offset the cost of the bus through various activities.

  An $80,000 cost savings to infrastructure improvements received county approval and the board plans to purchase equipment prior to July 1, part of the $700,000 received from the land sale. The capital projects budget is $484,000.'

    "Any remaining money will go into capital reserves immediately and be budgeted for the 2018-2019 school year."

    Monahan also said the high school was able to take a health cost adjustment over the 2 percent cap, which allowed a slight increase in spending.

   Cardillo also gave a STEM update for the high school's program development. She highlighted new course offerings for math, science and technology. She also touted the new engineering partnership with NJIT for dual enrollment planned for the upcoming school year, including a biomedical partnership with Berkeley College dual enrollment. The library "makerspace" is planned for further development. Additionally, she updated the Humanities programming and overall, an increase in rigor and relevance to curriculum.

   Operational upgrades were also highlighted with various human resources software being implemented at the high school and upgrades for the upcoming school year.