A public hearing on the spending plan is set for April 27.

WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield Board of Education introduced a $127 million budget on Tuesday which would raise school property taxes by 1.66% and maintain current programs in the town public school district.

What is the timeline? School Business Administrator Dana Sullivan presented the tentative budget at Tuesday’s virtual school board meeting. The district will submit the budget next week to the county superintendent’s office, and the board is set to adopt it at a public hearing on Tuesday, April 27. Details for logging into the public hearing via Webex will be posted on the district website.

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What is the tax impact? The owner of a home assessed at the town’s average value of $800,800 is projected to pay $10,402 in school taxes under the proposed budget based on a school tax rate of $1.299 per $100 of assessed valuation, according to Sullivan. Annual school taxes will increase by $170 for the owner of a home assessed at the town’s average value, she said.

What does the budget fund? According to Sullivan, the budget maintains class sizes within policy guidelines in a district where enrollment for 2021-22 is projected to reach 6,265 students.

The budget will support recently approved courses and school resource officers and allow the district to maintain its fund balance, assess its initiative to provide Chromebooks to students and ensure compliance with CDC and Department of Education guidelines, according to Sullivan.

What’s going up or down? The business administrator said salaries and benefits for staff make up 80% of the budget and are estimated to increase about 1.7 percent in the 2021-22 school year. Although salaries will go up, staff health insurance costs are projected to decrease by $106,439 under the district’s self-insured plan.

What about state aid? The local tax levy accounts for 94% of the budget, Sullivan explained, but $6.5 million in state aid and $750,000 in fund balance are also included. State aid to the district for the 2021-22 academic year increased by about $1 million from the current school year. 

“Although we are very happy to get a million more this year, and it’s helped us to submit a budget that was at cap and maintain the programs that we have, if the state formula was followed as written, we’d actually have $7.3 million of aid,” said Sullivan. 

Can the government help? A few members of the public commented on the budget at Tuesday's meeting. Alden Avenue resident Gerry Gleeson asked whether the schools would be able to use funding recently made available by the federal government for school reopening. 

Sullivan said the district was recently notified that money from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act is coming into the state, and the applications school districts need to fill out were opened up yesterday.

“That is not reflected in this budget at all,” Sullivan said. “That will be submitted to the state as an application.” While working on the application, Sullivan said “we're looking at our needs in the district and where we can spend that money appropriately.”

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