Multiple Questions in Preliminary School Budget
The school board approved a preliminary budget with two additional questions.
The Board of Education of the School District of the Chathams approved a preliminary budget for the 2013-14 school year which includes a 2.6 percent increase on the local tax levy and a second and third question for the voters in April.
The estimated expenditures for the school district in the 2013-14 school year total $65,131,110. With a tax increase of 2.6 percent, the total amount to be collected through local taxes will be $55,409,233.
At this rate the average borough household would pay an additional $209.90 throughout the year, or $17.49 per month. The average township household would pay an additional $17.06 per month or $204.75 over the year.
This proposed budget pays for additional staffing and extracurricular activities in the district. It does not pay for safety and security increases, which emerged as a priority for this budget after the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in December.
Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa proposes a two-pronged approach to school security. First he recommends increasing school counselors to one per elementary school (currently Washington Avenue School and Milton Avenue School share a counselor), a student assistant counselor at Chatham Middle School and one more counselor at Chatham High School.
These additional staffing requests make up one additional question for the budget and total $240,000 for the year.
The second approach is for additional security personnel. This includes a director of Safety and Security, and morning and afternoon monitors at each school building.
This request will total $225,000 for the year.
LaSusa said these improvements will bring Chatham more in-line with security at other schools. Even after last year's installation of cameras and swipe-card access, LaSusa said, "I have never been in a high school with as little security as we have."
A table showing the impact of the budget and two additional questions are below.
|Tax Levy for Base Budget||$65,131,110||2.6%|
|Tax Levy for Question #1||$240,000|
|Tax Levy for Base Budget plus Question #1||$65,371,110||3.04%|
|Tax Levy for Question #2||$225,000|
|Tax Levy for Base Budget plus Question #2||$65,356,110||3.02$|
|Total Tax Levy (Base Budget plus Question #1 and 2)||$65,596,110||3.46%|
In former years, second questions needed a super majority—60 percent—of votes to pass. Now they require only 50 percent of votes in the polls, plus one.
Maximum Allowable Tax Increase
LaSusa said the district qualifies for a health care adjustment over the 2 percent state tax levy cap, plus banked cap from the last three years which cannot be touched until the full health care allowance has been used. The district will not lose any banked cap this year.
The table below shows the total allowable tax increase for the district, including banked cap and exceptions for rising health care costs.
|2% Tax Levy Increase from 2012-13 Budget||$1,080,102|
|Health Care Cost Adjustment||$634,098|
|Maximum Allowable Tax Levy Increase||$2,231,609|
|Maximum Percentage of Tax Increase||4.13%|
High School Expansion
The budget also includes about $3 million for capital improvements, including paving projects at multiple schools and the addition of four new classrooms at Chatham High School. These funds will come from the capital reserve, not from additional taxes.
Chatham High finished an expansion project in 2012 which put in four new classrooms, plus walking paths from the school to Lafayette Avenue. The rooms were set to open earlier but construction was delayed due to Hurricane Irene and the damage from the October 2011 snow storm.
The classrooms have a maximum capacity of about 100 students, enough to contain the high school's student population until about 2015. Enrollment at the high school is set to continue to rise, according to a demographer's report. For that reason, the four classrooms were constructed with the ability to put a second floor on top with four more classrooms.
While state aid did remain flat at $1,871,941, the state increased a debt assessment fee which lowers net aid by $65,000. Also, LaSusa said there is still no indication of how sequestration cuts will affect the budget.