SOMERVILLE, NJ - Despite a hefty 17.71 percent increase in state aid for the borough’s public schools, taxes that were calculated to increase $132.50 for the average homeowner earlier this year will not be reduced.
The additional funding, which came about when legislators revamped the formula used to calculate state aid earlier this year, will not be distributed to taxpayers directly, negating any potential for immediate tax relief.
Instead, the additional $736,415 in state aid will be placed in capital reserves and be used to pay for improvements to school buildings, playing fields and other necessary projects, according to Dr. Tim Teehan, schools superintendent.
“Some districts will do that, use the money for tax relief. We’re not doing that,” Teehan said. “We’re putting it in capital reserves. The reason you do that is to pay for capital projects that are always costly, you need to have funds readily available,” he added.
"Many capital projects are very expensive which could cause the district to go out for a referendum; no one wants to do that,” he added.
“We know that roofs will need to be repaired, 5-7 years out, what needs to be replaced and the associated costs,” he continued. “When we start to do our budget each year we’ve thought about how much we need to put in capital reserves to pay for those roofs.”
Careful planning and prudent budgeting are paying for roof repairs this summer at the Van Derveer School, and improvements to the football field at Somerville High School. Both projects are being paid with funds in the capital reserve, according to Teehan, eliminating any need for an emergency referendum to raise the money to pay those costs.
“We’re trying to eliminate a referendum, stall it or limit how much money we would have to go out for in the future,” Teehan said. “We really are giving the money back to the taxpayers, it’s what we try to do; instead of taking it and spending it we’re putting in capital reserves for future tax relief. That is a benefit to taxpayers.
“It’s smart planning, not being reactionary; it is being proactive.” Teehan said.
Revised state aid figures released by the state Department of Education show that Somerville will receive $6,820,299 in state aid for the 2018-19 school year, an increase of $1,026,124 from the $5,794,175 received from the state for the 2017-18 school year.
The $1,026,124 also includes $289,709 the state had committed to Somerville earlier this year, according to Teehan.
The total school budget for 2018-19 is $46,164,255, according to Bryan Boyce, school business administrator; more than half of that total, 52.5 percent, is funded by local property taxes, according to Boyce.
Property owners will pay $24,024,360.00 towards the 2018-19 school budget, representing a 2.09 percent increase over the previous year’s total of $23,435,216.
State aid figures for each of the local school districts can be found at the following link provided by the New Jersey Department of Education:
Overall, Somerset County’s 17 school districts saw an increase of 10.94 percent in state aid for the 2018-19 school year; only one district, Hillsborough, will receive lower funding under the revised formula adopted in June, dipping 1.11 percent from $25,0205,652 last year to $24,926,259 for 2018-19.
Manville will see the biggest increase, a 54.19 percent jump from $6,054,385 to $9,335,032, a total of $3,280,647 in increased aid for 2018-19.
Bound Brook also saw a significant increase, jumping from $9,756,139 in 2017-18 to $13,795,918 for the upcoming school year, a 41.41 percent increase amounting to $4,034,779.
Almost three out of four school districts in the state – 72 percent – are to receive an increase in funding from Trenton, based on a revamping of the formula used to distribute state aid to the 545 school districts in the state.
State aid for schools in 2018-19 will increase by $348 million.
Adjustments in the formula will continue to be made through 2024.
The legislation was passed by the Senate and State Assembly in June, and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Somerville property owners’ tax bill increased an average of $199.80 this year, based on the average residence assessed value of $271,000.
The total tax bill includes the county tax, local property tax and school tax. Property taxes increased between $4 and $5 per month; county taxes this year remained stable.
Somerset County has provided Somerville with the final 2018 tax rate after several months delay, according to Granville Brady, president of the Somerville Borough Council and chair of the Borough Finance Committee.
According to Brady, “The tax rate is required to create the property tax bills that are being printed today. The tax bills are anticipated to be mailed on Monday July 30.”
Tax bills will include the following message, according to Brady:
““Due to delays from the state we are extending the grace period for the 3rd Quarter 2018 only. Grace period for the 3rd Quarter will be through Aug.24, 2018.”