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School District Could Offer 2nd Question on Budget

Superintendent Michael LaSusa proposed three different paths for the upcoming school budget.

Dr. Michael LaSusa, superintendent of the School District of the Chathams, proposed three different potential paths for the Board of Education to take in planning the 2013-14 school budget, including putting a second question to the voters for enhancements to school security.

His proposed scenarios call for a budget increase of between 2.14 percent to 3.41 percent, or allow the Board of Education to propose a different path.

The board will select a budget plan and vote on it on March 11 following another Open Finance Committee meeting.

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.

2% Tax Levy Increase from 2012-13 Budget $1,080,102 Health Care Cost Adjustment $634,098 Banked Cap $517,409 Maximum Allowable Tax Levy Increase $2,231,609 Maximum Percentage of Tax Increase 4.13%

LaSusa also assumed for the purposes of his presentation that state aid will remain flat at $1,871,941 from 2012-13 and does not take into account any potential effects of the possible federal "sequestration" spending cuts which could go into effect Friday.

The Possibilities

The first scenario LaSusa proposed would involve adding a limited number of high school staff members and making no investment in extracurricular activities for students or in student wellness and security. In such a plan, the tax levy would increase by 2.14 percent, about $400,000 above the 2 percent tax cap.

The second scenario would be to invest in all the priorities LaSusa identified in his presentation and incorporate all of them into the budget. This would call for a tax levy increase of 3.41 percent, about $800,000 over the health care allowance and some of the banked cap.

The third scenario, which LaSusa said he favored, would be to add additional high school staff, special education staff and extracurricular options into the budget and ask the public to vote on a second question to pay for proposed student wellness and safety items. In this scenario, the tax levy would rise by 2.6 percent if the budget passed, and another 0.81 percent if the second question passes for a total of 3.41 percent.

LaSusa also said the board could decide to go in an entirely different direction than any of the scenarios he proposed.

The Impact

The estimated expenditures for the school district in the 2013-14 school year total $65,131,110.

Under LaSusa's first proposed scenario with a tax levy increase of 2.14 percent, limited staffing and no additional extracurriculars or safety improvements, total revenue collected would be $64,885,110. For the average home in Chatham Borough assessed at $660,327, this would mean an average annual increase of $176.51, or $14.71 per month. In the township  for an average home assessed at $754,398, this increase would be $14.10 per month, or $169.16 for the year.

The second option with a tax levy increase of 3.41 percent would bring revenues up to $65,570,310 and pay for all district priorities in the upcoming school budget. In the borough this would mean a tax increase of $22.12 per month or $265.44 for the year. In the township this increase would be $22 per month and $263.96 for the year.

A tax levy increase of 2.6 percent would bring the revenues in line with the estimated expenditures. 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 scenario would pay for all staffing increases, for additional extracurricular activities and special education improvements, but not the improvements to student wellness and security, which would have to be put out on a second question. If the question was approved, it would mean an additional increase of $4.63 per month or $55.54 for the year for borough residents. In the township it would mean an additional $4.93 per month or $59.21 over the year.

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