A presentation on the school district’s 2013-14 budget, which increases taxes approximately $300 for the average homeowner, will be made at the school board meeting Monday at 7:30 p.m.
with a 4.9 percent increase in the local tax levy. The proposed $65,378,595 spending plan calls for a $42,065,051 tax levy.
The average homeowner, assessed at $316,000, will pay $25 more in taxes per month if the 2013-14 budget is approved as is.
“We’ve been pressuring the school board to take and reduce that number,” Committeeman Gary Quinn said at Thursday’s Committee meeting.
Members of the Committee have met with and discussed the budget over the phone in what Mayor David Most called a “negotiation process.”
“We have so many things going on in the community right now and people are hurting,” Most said. “A lot of our residents are in despair. We’re talking about a historic tax increase now.”
Although above the state cap, the school district will not need a referendum to pass the budget since the state allows for 14 exceptions. The district will be granted two waivers — one for health benefits and the other for a banked cap.
“I want people to understand this governing body has no say in that number whatsoever,” Quinn said. “(The Board of Education) has the authority. They’ve been elected by the residents to make those decisions and we as taxpayers no longer have the ability to vote on those things because the government has made changes.”
The community is facing a “substantial increase” under the school district’s budget, Quinn said. The municipality expects to increase its budget as well, but within the 2 percent cap, while Lacey will also be hit with a county hike due to the loss of revenue from Hurricane Sandy.
“I understand what they're under as far as what their budget is concerned, and I hope we can work this out together because these are tough times for our community,” Most said.
The preliminary budget was approved by a vote of 5-2 with board President Eric Schubiger and member Frank Palino opposed.
“I’m not comfortable supporting the budget as it stands at this moment,” Schubiger previously said. “I want the tax levy to be less. Our job is to make the tax levy less for the taxpayer.”
Business Administrator James Savage credits the 4.9 percent tax levy increase primarily to the rise in cost of health benefits, a $500,000 increase in salaries and a $800,000 decrease in Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC). With the increase in health benefits alone, the district could not stay within the cap, he previously said.
Some of the greatest appropriation increases in the school budget include:
- $748,907 for Personal Services- Employee Benefits
- $739,324 for Undistributed Expenditures- Improvement of Instructional Services
- $207,001 for Undistributed Expenditures- Instruction (Tuition)
- $110,181 for Undistributed Expenditures- Speech, OT, PT and Related Services
- $107,116 for School-Sponsored Athletics – Instruction
Some of the decreases include:
- $1,105,477 for Equipment
- $430,610 in Regular Programs – Instruction
- $385,231 for Undistributed Expenditures – Student Transportation Services
- $250,312 for Special Education – Instruction
This preliminary budget, as is, does not include any cuts or layoffs, Schubiger previously said.
There are many new initiatives that are contributing to the increase in the tax levy, including the full day kindergarten and the random drug testing programs and school security.
Superintendent Dr. Sandra Brower, Schubiger and Savage did not immediately respond to discuss what other new initiatives the budget includes or if they intend to make cuts at this point.
Former school board member Tom Pelcheski called Lacey resident Regina Discenza to tell her “I told you so,” she said. More than three years ago, Pelcheski warned that when the SREC funds run low, the community would see a significant tax hike.
“And sure enough, it’s happening,” Discenza said. “People have to come out to school board meetings. We are getting full day kindergarten, which was never voted upon and while I understand the pros and cons of it, it’s a huge expense and it’s coming at a time when the township is in dire economic straits.”
Discneza stays in touch with many elderly neighbors and residents, she said.
“Do you want to hear people say I have to decide between paying my taxes, buying food or getting my medication? It’s a very sad situation but that is what’s going on,” she said.
Resident Bill Moss pointed out that the majority of local taxes go to the school district and the state included these exclusions to get around the tax levy cap.
“They found loopholes and they’re using them,” he said.
A public hearing on the budget will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, March 22 in the Lecture Hall of the Lacey Township High School.
Below are the proposed figures for the preliminary budget. The 2013-14 budget is also attached to this story.
Local Tax Levy
Total Local Repayment of Debt
Total Operating Budget