CRANBURY: School budget includes no tax increase

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
CRANBURY – The Cranbury Township School District Board of Education unanimously approved its preliminary budget Tuesday night, a budget that which will have no tax increase on local residents.
Chief School Administrator and Principal Dr. Susan Genco commended Business Administrator and Board Secretary Nick Bice and board member Pramod Chivate for all the hours they worked together.
“This is Nick’s first budget and I think he did a fantastic job,” she said. “No detail was left unchecked. It made me feel very comfortable knowing that everything was looked at with a fine-tooth comb.”
Mr. Chivate, finance liaison, said that the finance committee met on March 9 to review the budget to put on the agenda for tentative adoption.
“All of the budget supports all of the current programs,” he said.
He said the proposed tax rate increase is 1.62 percent, which is no increase from last year’s rate.
“However, due to a decrease in our debt service obligations, the net tax increase to the taxpayer is zero,” Mr. Bice said in a follow-up email on March 16.
He said the current year’s tax rate is $1.0489, $0.9918 general fund plus $0.0571 debt service fund.
“The proposed tax rate for next year is also $1.0489, $1.0056 general fund plus $0.0433 debt service fund,” he said.
Mr. Bice said that the tax rate impact is $1.0489 per $100 of assessed valuation, which comes out to $6,336.59 per year to the average taxpayer with a home assessed at $604,091.
“We are also looking to keep our capital reserves at a very healthy level,” Mr. Chivate said. “We are projecting that figure to remain at $1.2 million.”
Mr. Bice said in the current year, the district withdrew $1.2 million from its capital reserve in order to complete the partial re-roofing and HVAC projects.
“In the proposed budget, we are focusing on rebuilding our capital reserve balance so we will have funding to complete future projects as needed,” he said
Mr. Chivate said that the bank capitals available for use would go back to the community. “Approximately $450,000 was available to use but not using it shows our fiscal responsibility back to the community,” he said.
He said the district did get help on some of the debt being completed this year, though.
“The district generated $456,818 in banked cap in the 2013-2014 budget year,” Mr. Bice said. “The district is able to utilize banked cap in subsequent budgets, if necessary, to go above the 2 percent tax levy cap. If banked cap is not utilized within three years, it expires.”
He said that the use of banked cap is not included in the 2016-2017 proposed budget so the $456,818 balance generated in 2013-2014 will expire.
“It is not physical money going back to the taxpayers,” he said. “Rather, it is a tax levy adjustment that we are permitted to utilize, if needed, which we are choosing to not utilize at this time as it is not necessary.”
Mr. Bice said that the total tax levy for the proposed budget for next year is $16,205,875, which includes $15,744,175 from the general fund plus $461,700 from the debt service fund.
The total budget for the current year is $18,719,434. The total proposed budget for next year is $17,555,122.
“The reason for the overall budget decrease is due to a lower withdrawal from capital reserve for capital projects and a decrease in our debt service obligations,” Mr. Bice said.
Board Member Dominique Jones complimented the work put in developing the budget.
“It was really well done and really looking to see the deduction in the debt service,” she said.
Mr. Bice agreed.
“Yeah, that really helped us out a lot,” he said.