School Board Adopts Budget With Average $99 Tax Hike
District spending plan is focused on new initiatives including technology upgrades and curriculum development
The school board unanimously adopted its 2012-13 budget, which includes a $99 tax increase on the average homeowner, at a public hearing Monday night.
“This financial plan is really a blueprint for what we envision for the future in the upcoming year at Lacey schools,” Superintendent Dr. Sandra Brower said.
The board adopted a $64,216,897 spending plan that calls for a $40,090,630 tax levy, a 1.7 percent increase over 2011-12's $39,413,121 levy and the first hike after two years of zero percent budgeting.
The average homeowner, assessed at $317,924, will pay $8.25 more in taxes per month under the 2012-13 budget.
“We did not go the full legislative 2 percent that we would be allowed,” Brower said, in reference to the state cap on budget growth.
The operating budget includes the $279,480 in projected state aid for 2012-13, $612,489 in additional state aid from 2011 that the district deferred to the upcoming school year and $1.2 million for solar renewable energy credits, Business Administrator James Savage said.
“We truly started with a zero-based budget, which means you start from the beginning, you’re not just rolling numbers over but rather you’re taking and accounting what you believe you need, what you want and then what we can all put in and agree on in the end,” Brower said.
The development of the budget took time and defense, she said. Each principal and department head had to “defend every single dollar.”
Through this, the board was able to determine new initiatives, which primarily center on technology and curriculum development.
“We’re at a significant crossroads in our educational system,” she said. “There has never been another year like it because we’re planning for times that are unprecedented.”
The budget prioritizes strengthening instructional programs, improving technology systems, extending staff development and maintaining facilities, Brower said.
“We need to improve and always improve our teaching capacity for those who are working with our students and that is to make sure that when we had our funding available, it went right toward staff development,” Brower said. “So we bolstered this line item this year.”
The state is moving toward the Common Core Standards, changing from its current assessments to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and reforming teacher evaluation.
“A full national force is telling our public schools that you must ensure that our students are ready for college, post-secondary experiences when they leave us at the end of 12th grade,” she said.
New evaluations must be in place by 2014. Prior to that, the district will be “thoughtful” and “cautious” and will involve all stakeholders in developing a new model, Brower said.
To implement other state-mandated changes, the district will have to rewrite curriculums, which will be the district’s summer project, Assistant Superintendent Vanessa Clark said.
Many of the mandates will be computer-based, which is one of the reasons why the district has to advance its technology, in addition to BYOD, an acronym that refers to the new wave of students who bring their own devices to school, Clark said.
Any available funding was put toward maintaining the district’s facilities.
The following are upcoming initiatives in Lacey schools by grade:
- Pre-K: Expanded programming; smart tables;
- K-4: EnVision Math; technology enhancements and upgrades;
- 5-6: EnVision Math; increased guidance services; technology enhancements and upgrades;
- 7-8: Increased time in math; technology enhancements and upgrades; the transformation of the media center into an Internet café; after-school study skill program;
- Athletics and co-curricular: Increased opportunities for students to participate in after-school activities.
Efficiencies, Reductions and the Operating Budget
One efficiency in this year’s budget was the reallocation of staff.
“What you need to know is that we looked at every single line item,” Brower said.
This year’s budget doesn’t call for the reduction of any teachers but the expansion of the programming for pre-kindergarten and an increase of teachers in the middle school for new initiatives, Brower said.
The district also saved approximately $20,000 by switching the board election to November and in staff contribution toward health and prescription benefits, which was accounted for in the new budget, she said.
Overall, the $64,216,897 budget is 2.89 percent larger than the $62,413,706 2011-12 spending plan, owing in part to rises in instruction and student services, tuition, administration and capital outlay, Brower said.
There was a decrease in operations, transportation and personnel services, she said.
“Decisions were tough,” Brower said. “They were not easy. But we kept them close to the classroom.”
Resident Regina Discenza questioned why the budget couldn’t be kept level especially with saving $360,000 in the electric bills due to the solar project and the funds in solar renewable energy credits.
The Lacey Township School District had to withstand a $3.2 million cut in state aid two years ago, board President Jack Martenak said. The state restored $800,000.
“But that still leaves us about $2.4 million short,” he said.
The district would have loved to implement another zero percent tax increase, board member Maureen Tirella said.
“But the only way we could do it this year is at the cost of the students,” she said.
Vice President Eric Schubiger said he was disappointed that in a room full of people, Discenza was the only resident to speak during public comment and that developing the budget was a “difficult process.
“What that tells me is that we’re doing a pretty good job up here,” he said.
Schubiger, along with six other board members (Bruce Carney was absent), voted yes on the budget.
“I have some concerns about where we’re going, how we’re utilizing some of the resources and staff in this budget, but I think the amount of time this administration put into this budget and some of the initiatives we have before us are really exciting,” he said.
Lacey resident Helen Giglio raised three children in the school district and said she had never seen the budget presented as thoroughly as Monday. She sees the budget and tax increase as an “investment.
“I think it’s going to be hard on some people,” she said. “It’s part of Lacey and what we believe in. It will only benefit the students.”
Resident Kathy Mentzel thought the presentation was “absolutely awesome,” she said.
“I will pay that tax increase happily,” she said. “I know my daughter will reap the benefits. We’re moving in the right direction.”
See the attached PDF for a copy of the budget. A copy of Brower’s presentation will be posted on the school district website.