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District to Present Budget with 'Historic Tax Increase'

Township Committee 'pressures' school board to reduce tax levy, which would increase taxes approximately $300 for the average homeowner

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.

Budget Category

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14 (Proposed)

Local Tax Levy

38,379,406

39,413,121

40,090,630

42,065,051

Total Local Repayment of Debt

5,065,599

5,122,788

5,028,138

$4,414,550

Total Operating Budget

57,593,870

64,642,232

64,216,897

$65,378,595

Total Expenditures

65,641,245

71,095,320

70,599,335

$71,029,145

LaceyTaxpayer March 18, 2013 at 12:59 PM
March 2 was a Saturday three weeks ago?
Resident of Lacey March 18, 2013 at 01:16 PM
Looks like it's time to lay off some teachers... What a shame the BOE simply can not get things right.
Elaine Piniat (Editor) March 18, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Sorry about that. Friday, March 22 is the public hearing.
Robert Yates March 18, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Why don't we lay off some administrators? They are paid way more and likely do far less than the average teacher. The number of school districts in NJ is a perfect absurdity. It is one of the reasons the system is so administrator top heavy, and thus expensive. This article again shows the different ways in which the private and public sectors operate. My heath-care costs went up this year too. So I went out and got a less expensive plan; but not in the public sector though. They just pay the higher premiums and pass the buck to the sucker tax payers, who keep electing the same people.
LaceyTaxpayer March 18, 2013 at 03:06 PM
No problem, Elaine. Thanks for the correction. I checked the district's website and found it to be very out-of-date in terms of documents; is there any way we can see the detail of the budget items and not just the overall categories so they can be scrutinized and called into question at this meeting? Thanks....
LaceyTaxpayer March 18, 2013 at 05:02 PM
This '14 exception' thing seems to me to gives school boards an incentive to increase costs anywhere within those 14 areas to go beyond the 2% and then provides them carte blanche in other areas as long as there are some 'exceptions' to be used as justification for a non-referendum? Does anyone know if the removal of the requirement for a public referendum on the budget based on the '14 exceptions' is limited to when the amount of the increase beyond the 2% cap is BECAUSE OF those exceptions? Or does the referendum requirement simply go away by having an overall increase beyond the 2% cap in which PART OF the increase is because of the exception(s)?
John Sotelo Jr. March 18, 2013 at 05:11 PM
So in other words....... we are getting a 4.9% tax increase because the school district doesn't know how to come up with a balanced budget or are too afraid to tell their employees they NEED to contribute more to their health benifits. Not only that but then the township is going to raise our taxes "below the 2% cap", just because they can........ and we also guaranteed an increase in county taxes as well because of 'lost revenues' from homes that were destroyed........ just because. This state is a joke, the governing body is a joke of spineless people who have their hands in the cookie jar, and us commoners have no say in it because you can go to all the meetings, send all the letters and make all the phone calls you want, but YOUR name doesn't get signed on the line. Theirs does. This city, county, state, is going to hell in a hand basket with the governing body leading the way. Why do you think NJ was #1 in the country of the amount of people LEAVING to move somewhere else and better their family situation? The people running things in this state need to figure a way of CUTTING taxes, not RAISING them. STOP SPENDING! Think about the people who are going to have to choose, food...... or property taxes. Not everyone who lives here has expendable money to just hand over to the government
Silver dollar March 18, 2013 at 05:55 PM
Lacey taxpayer( Not the comment writer but the citizens) How does it feel to be a scape goat for your non caring attitude ,when it comes to your school board . You got no vote in what they or do and as well as no saying on how much they spend . It seems t be OK with the voters because you keep voting them back in . Mrs Regina Discenza has been telling us for years this Solar Renewable Credits would end ,and you would be hit with a large tax increase .Well here it is . She is the person you need on the school board . vote her in this November and see what happens . Its time for a change .A new broom sweeps . Get off your assets and do something.Do you miss not voting for the school budget now ? Let's see what happens next year ?
makemyday March 18, 2013 at 06:24 PM
These may not be popular, but... 1) we do not need to be giving drug test. That is the responsibility of parents & law enforcement. 2) teachers & administrators need to contribute more towards benefits. The taxpayers cannot keep paying our family's and theirs. Its unsustainable! 3) the BOE has to find cuts. does a secretary really need a secretary? as i said, these may not be popular, but it would be a start.
Mortimer Snurd March 18, 2013 at 06:36 PM
Based on the total expenses over time presented here, the recession is over. A near double digit increase in the school budget is not in line with residents' personal income. We will need public housing for resident seniors to survive in Lacey Township. As Ms. Discenza has implied the Tax impact on Retired folk is life threatening. Taxes are due May 1. How about a tax strike so we all can eat, not only those who work for the BOE. IMHO
TheGreatHoax March 18, 2013 at 06:40 PM
It's time to CUT the CADILLAC BENEFIT PROGRAM. Elaine - please post the percentage of the budge that is allocated to benefits. Taxpayers most likely haven't got a clue. Their paying for top of the line health benes etc., meanwhile many are going without. The district employees have been relatively unaffected by the cuts in benefit coverage and increase in premiums and copays that private sector industry has experienced in the past few years. What's the copay for dr and prescriptions?? Please find out Elaine and inform us. Also, what is the average employee contribution toward their health insurance. Are the taxpayers still on the hook for double coverage (i.e. covering both husband and wife that are employed by district). two years ago the family coverage plan was costing taxpayer $24,000 per employee!!!! What is it now and what is their contribution?? That fact is, IT IS NOT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!! Public education is now big business and the education system is worse than ever thanks to the corrupt union and greed. The majority of the students pumped out, well, let's not go there.
Larry March 18, 2013 at 06:43 PM
GEE I guess when Tom Palcheski(sp) questioned the board on the solar panels he had good reason and good insight ..... RYates I totally agree with you....Private sector is continually paying higher copays.... on benefits... even losing benefits such as dental. We don't need to hear any public sector employee whining about their salaries. Their cadillac healthplans make up the difference.... and just wait until Obama care sets in.....wake up people!!
Larry March 18, 2013 at 06:50 PM
Excelling points GHoax.....I agree I would like for Elaine to post the benefit information as well.... The taxpayers have a right to know this information. Families are struggling just to get by these days. Many are living pay check to paycheck. Go to the grocery store and just look at the prices... everything is going up.... gas, utilities, etc. etc. next will be our home insurance premiums due to Sandy. HOw much more are taxpayers going to be squeezed??? While so many are living off the taxpayers as it is. Public sector employees need to understand that we can no longer afford to pay for their benefits. It is time for them to contribute on their own.
Mortimer Snurd March 18, 2013 at 07:10 PM
TGH makes the teachez and BOE sound like a group of finagling parasites. Who's their insurance agent? That's some hefty dough. Nice to know the percentages and dollars: budget toward 'education' and benefits.
ELAINE March 18, 2013 at 07:20 PM
GET RID OF SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT ARE SUPPOSE TO BE CLEANING PARKS ETC WE DON'T NEED TO PAY OUT IF NOT NEEDED AND I SEE A LOT THATS NOT NEEDED IN THIS TOWN I'D LOVE TO HAVE SOME OF THESE SO CALLED JOBS. AFTER RETIREMENT MAKE AS YOU GO OR WHO YOU IKNOW,
Robert Yates March 18, 2013 at 07:32 PM
I doubt the heath-care plans offered to the public are even available to a private entity even if they wanted to pay $40K per annum for a family plan premium. It is absolutely out of control. It's almost worth it for one spouse to work for free as long as they have the heath-care plan offered to public employees. And it is not all the public employees fault. Heath-care in this state is absurdly expensive and the coverage is second rate at best. Pretty soon, hard working people just are not going to get coverage as it is damn near cost prohibitive.
Mortimer Snurd March 18, 2013 at 07:47 PM
On an imaginary note, if we sent Lacey's students to Princeton Day or the Peddie school cost per student could more than double, and the Township would have significantly lower administrative, teacher and real estate costs. Would everyone be happier if we outsourced our education mandate?
tr March 18, 2013 at 08:20 PM
Go to the meeting and state your views. This is a good forum to exchange ideas but, not official. It is time to reduce payroll expense through employee reduction in force measures, starting with a 20% reduction in administrators, and support staff. After that, increase class sizes to 30 per class by letting teachers go. All of that reduces the largess controllable expenses- payroll and benefits. Regina was right then and she is right now. Mr. Moss,MS. Decenza, Mr. Vaccarro, and myself (when in town) seem to be the only people who go to the meeting on a regular basis. Guess what!!! Now we are all going to pay because of it. It is time to get up and be "mad as hell" and yell that you are "not going to take it anymore".
your kidding me March 18, 2013 at 08:51 PM
All great points. BOE needs to cut the vehicles that the Lacey Twp. school system has and stop giving them on a full time basis. School use and thats it, no taking them home, to much personal use. Also they need to take a look at the family members that are on their health care program. Nieces and nephews are not allowed but it's done. Pay for only one benefit package per family not both husband and wife. I also think that the state or fed. gov. needs to look into criminal charges on some of the things going on.
foggyworld March 18, 2013 at 09:33 PM
The way too many districts provide cushy jobs for more civil servants than we need.
ynot March 18, 2013 at 09:42 PM
The same people that are writing about the new tax increase coming, are the same people who vote the same people on the BOE ( the YES board ) year after year. No one on the board questions anything that is voted on.....they just vote YES FOR THE CHILDREN.....
Mortimer Snurd March 18, 2013 at 09:53 PM
I was wrong, privatization would increase our school tax. Maybe regionalization would help.
proud March 18, 2013 at 10:04 PM
Some time back, this quote from the outgoing NEA general counsel, was posted on the Patch message bord, and it struck a chord with me, so I bookmarked it: "Chanin posed the question of why NEA is an effective advocate. Chanin said, “It is not because of creative ideas, it is not because of the merit of our position, it is not because we care about children, it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power and we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.” (standing ovation)" For the kids, right?
Jim March 18, 2013 at 11:01 PM
I'd just like to thank all of the people who voted in favor of that stupid solar project. I remember arguing against it on the Patch at the time. The energy life-cycle of solar cells (mining, production, installation, loss of efficiency, disposal) makes them a sucker's bet: environmentally and economically. If we lived in a desert at the equator, it would still be a bad deal. ...and who among you thought that the SREC's would last forever?? Really?? If you voted for this idiotic project, YOU have saddled every taxpayer in Lacey with a huge tax increase. I bet you felt so proud and green when you voted yes! Do us all a favor - continue to live in fantasyland if you must, but don't vote in the future - you're not smart enough.
Jim March 18, 2013 at 11:12 PM
By the way, Lacey has: Some great teachers who deserve to be paid more Some mediocre teachers Some teachers who should have been fired long ago. Tenure protects the bad teachers, lets the mediocre cruise along, and punishes the exceptional. What a disservice to the kids.
JOHNNY Done it March 19, 2013 at 02:00 AM
LETS try a management layoff of historic proportion we have all these doctorites ( The BOE did fine without them) on the school system making over $100,000 get rid of 8 of them we would should be back on track...This new super sucks ,she has deep pockets we don't ,,Go back to Monmouth county & get rid of the people that failed to project the energy certificates were going to drop Poor planning With all these people that put up solar & getting in one the energy certs it was bound to bottom out,,& to base a project on this they are idiots........overpaid ones..
JOHNNY Done it March 19, 2013 at 02:06 AM
TIME TO CUT THE KINDERGARTEN FULL DAY... The rest of us paid for pre school ..You want full day Kindergarten they individuals should pay for it. Time to cut the extras & the wish list....
wookfish March 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM
just ask the "plant" for more
proud August 18, 2013 at 03:24 PM
Is anyone else sick to their stomach that this heinous tax increase is being used to pay Heath Benefits for Superstorm Sandra (the architect of this scheme)? Is anyone else sick to their stomach that Martenak and Savage engineered the the SREC snafu and that the board pocketed 8 million dollars of taxpayer money? Is anyone else sick to their stomach that the insanity of home rule is in full force (and festering) in the once great Garden State? Is anyone else sick to their stomach that their is not one board member that doesn't line their pockets with tax dollars? Does anyone else consider that to be a conflict? I do!
proud November 01, 2013 at 06:14 PM
Lacey Township, New Jersey - Channel 21 www.laceytownship.org/content/63/2083/default.aspx Now you can view Channel 21 Meetings online! Just click on the TV below and catch up on all the Township News! Home || Calendar || Citizen Service Request ... More results for candidates night channel 21 lacey township

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