2.25% Tax Levy Increase Proposed for School Budget

Budget includes a portion of cap banking funds from 2011-12.

The 2012-13 proposed school budget for the has a 2.25 percent tax levy increase, out of an allowable 3.28 percent increase, and an expenditure decrease of $73,951.

Assistant Superintendent Michael LaSusa gave a presentation on the school budget to the Board of Education during an open Finance Committee meeting Monday.

The district can also use $675,387 in banked cap from 2011-12, which brings the allowable tax levy increase to $1,731,213, or 3.28 percent, over last year without requiring a public vote.

"That [banked cap] was a combination of money that we received for enrollment growth ... and for increases in our health insurance costs [last year]," LaSusa said.

The district does not qualify for any adjustments to the tax levy in 2012-13. Medical expenses stayed flat from 2011-12. Pension costs increased, but not significantly, and enrollment is not projected to increase significantly. The only increase in medical expenses is based on new employees.

LaSusa presented four potential scenarios for the 2012-13 budget with the tax levy increase at rates of 2, 2.25, 2.5 and 3.28 percents. He recommended increasing the levy by 2.25 percent.

"We think that that's a good number to target, at least for an initial discussion," LaSusa said.

Peter Daquila, the business administrator, said a budget with a tax levy increase of 2.25 percent will utilize $131,000 of the banked cap, leaving $545,000 the district can use before the 2014-15 school year. Using a portion of the tax cap will help the district "have a minimal spike effect on the taxpayers," Daquila said.

If the budget is approved with the proposed 2.25 percent increase, the average monthy tax increase to Chatham Borough residents will be $24.74, or $296.85, annually. This is based on an average home assessment of $658,500.

Township residents will see their monthly tax bill rise by an average of $10.06, or $120.67 annually. This is based on an average home assessment of $747,400.

"The borough has lost some money in ratables over the past year, whereas the township has stayed [relatively] flat," LaSusa said, "and so that's where the discrepancy comes into effect."

The budget also reflects over last year.

The district will see some major decreases in expenditures, according to estimates LaSusa presented. Some of these are decreases in capital outlay ($914,907 in 2012-13 compared to $2,636,883 in 2011-12), and grants and entitlements ($893,379 next year compared to $1,075,671 last year).

Major increases in expenditures include salaries and benefits other than medical benefits, which increased $1,470,595 and $143,619, respectively, out of $34,444,828 and $189,602 over their 2011-12 amounts.

The budget includes several staffing increases, especially at in the fourth grade. The incoming fourth grade class is the largest class in the entire district.

If the budget is approved as proposed, LAS will see an increase in five full-time staff members and one half-time staff member. will also receive a full-time health and physical education teacher.

Special education expenses will also go down because Vincent D'Elia, the director of special services, budgeted for several new teachers to come into the district. This will reduce out-of-district tuitions for special education students.

A copy of LaSusa's presentation to the board is attached to this article.

The cost-per-pupil in Chatham remains among the lowest in J districts with K-12 programs at $11,861 per pupil. Millburn, by comparison, spends $14,910 and Mountain Lakes spends $18,584 per child.

The finance committee will hold a second open public meeting on March 12. The district must submit a final budget to the executive county superintendent on March 22. A public hearing on the budget will be held on March 26.

Voter registration for school elections is March 27. The deadline for mail-in ballots is April 10. Voters may submit their mail-in ballots in person up until Election Day, which will be on April 17.

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