Preliminary School Budget For ‘19-20 Revealed – Tax Levy Up 2%

At the first meeting of the new year (Jan 7), the Board of Education unveiled its first cut of the budget for the school year that runs from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. Of interest to all Harding residents is that the budget calls for a 2% increase in the school related tax levy. School taxes account for almost 50% of a total Harding property tax bill. Again this year, the increase in the tax levy (except some allowable exemptions) is limited by state statute.

The budget calls for total spending of $11.244 million, an increase of 1.8%. The school property taxes provide about 90% of that spending while the other 10% is provided by a myriad of items that are expected to increase less than 2%, hence the total spending will increase less (1.8%) than the tax levy (2%). These other sources (the 10%) of income are NJ state aid ($272K), “budgeted fund balance” ($335K), “extraordinary aid/non-public transportation” ($224K), federal grants ($137K), tuition revenue ($98K) and miscellaneous items of revenue (about $68K).

The 2% increase in school property compares with average ANNUAL increases of 6.01% for the

years 1997 to 2011 (before the cap was instituted) and increases that have since ranged between a low of 1.48% for school year 2017-18 and a high of 3.32% for the 2015-16 year.

On the expense side of the budget various items are increasing more than 2%. Teacher salaries, by far the largest item in a school budget, will rise 2.6% as per the contract with the union. Health and dental benefit premiums will increase. Out-of-District special education tuition, that is, spending to send certain children to other schools, is expected to increase 3-5%.

The plan includes funds some facilities upgrades: a bathroom renovation, HVAC project and STEM-Library/Media renovation, to modernize the library in line with 2020 technology standards.

The Superintendent’s presentation listed 16 items that will be funded including safety related (Honeywell Instant Alert; safety upgrades; Safe School staff development), professional and curriculum development, software tool and systems and tech upgrades.

In late February, HT school district will receive final state aid figures. Then in mid-March, the tentative (as opposed to this “preliminary” budget) will be presented to the Board of Ed and submitted to the Executive County Superintendent. The public hearing on the budget will be in late April or early May with the new fiscal year beginning July 1.

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