Proposed Galloway School Budget Includes 2-Cent Tax Increase for $200,000 Homes
The proposed budget is $61,487,752 with a tax levy of $30,193,840.
After voters defeated two referendums concerning repairs to district schools in 2011 and 2012, the Galloway Township School District introduced budget with a 2 cent tax increase attached to it, and $750,000 deposited in capital reserve to begin helping with roof repairs.
The school district introduced a $61,487,752 budget with a local tax levy of $30,193,840 Tuesday night, March 5. This translates to a 2-cent tax increase on a $200,000 home.
The Galloway Township Board of Education approved the introduced budget 5-1, with three board members absent. Board President Ernest Huggard, Vice President George Schwenger and Board Members Madeline Avery, Suzette Cordero and Rich Dase voted in favor of the introduced budget, and Board Member Beverly Evensen voted against it. Board Members John Knorr, Rosemary Hollway and David Carmen were absent.
The budget must now be submitted to the county by Thursday, March 7.
Changes can still be made to the budget, and the public hearing and final decision on the 2013-14 budget will be made March 25.
Last week, the school district learned it would receive $300,000 more in state aid than it did last year. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Annette Giaquinto said that while state aid is up, “it still does not equal the amount the state calculates we should be receiving nor does it cover increases in the budget dollars needed to operate the school district under the status quo.”
Giaquinto and Business Administrator Tim Kelley announced on Tuesday night that $750,000 would be deposited into the capital reserve account. That is $250,000 more than the money deposited into the current year’s capital reserve.
That money is put toward half a repair half the roof and parking lot at Arthur Rann Elementary School, with the other half to be paid for with funds deposited in next year’s capital reserve.
“You can make the argument that the money we’re putting aside is too much, but the cost to replace a roof can be between $1.1 and $1.4 million, and we still need two more,” Huggard said. “Last year, taxpayers told us to go get the money ourselves, and this is what we’re doing. For two years, we’ve been more than frugal. We deserve this, the children deserve this, and I support this tax increase.”
“I live at Four Seasons and the neighbors are concerned,” Evensen said. “Things can’t be status quo, we need further reductions. At a time when I see retired neighbors taking part-time jobs, these are people who want to relax and enjoy their twilight years, and instead, they’re worrying how to make money.”
The tax levy for the 2008-09 budget was $28,613,552, making for an increase of $1,580,288, and an annual increase of less than 1 percent, according to figures presented by Giaquinto and Kelley on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, state aid has decreased from $25,199,989 in 2008-09 to $23,572,868 for this budget. It translates into an annual decrease of $184,842, Kelley said.
“If the referendum had passed last year, we would not have a 2-cent tax increase,” Schwenger said. “But the taxpayers told us to save the money ourselves, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s going to take two years to do one roof this way. We can’t let the buildings fall apart.”
“There were years where there was a 0 percent increase, and a year where there was a decrease that was voted down,” Avery said. “Education’s not cheap, and I think this budget is fair.”
“I hate to spend taxpayers’ money, but we’re here for the children, and their safety and education comes first,” Dase said, adding that the school district is always searching for grants to help ease the costs on taxpayers.
“I’m not for cutting facility and technology replacements, and I don’t support a reduction of teachers in the classroom,” Cordero said.
Galloway Councilman Brian Tyrrell attended Tuesday’s public budget meeting.
“I certainly don’t like tax increases, but education’s certainly a priority,” Tyrrell said. “It’s been a challenge. They’ve had decreased state funding in prior years, and it’s been difficult for them. I also certainly understand the concerns of the citizens.”
Two citizens spoke during the public comment portion. One commended the board for the job it’s doing, while the other spoke about a program that makes it possible for citizens who qualify to have their taxes frozen. Application forms are available at the Senior Center.