Home E/M Sentinel E/M Sentinel News As enrollment increases in Edison, so do school taxes

As enrollment increases in Edison, so do school taxes

By JACQUELINE DURETT
Correspondent

EDISON — A combination of capital projects, new personnel and rising insurance costs are behind a school budget that comes with an average $141 increase.

According to Board of Education President Frank Heelan, this year’s $234 million budget had a number of challenges, so despite the amount of cuts the district has made, the total is up 2.7 percent for the 2016-17 school year.

On the average home assessed at $177,300, that means an extra $141.42 annually.

The budget was passed on May 4 with one dissenter, Ralph Errico, who did not comment as to what concerns he may have had with the final document. There were also no comments from the public regarding the budget at that meeting.

Heelan said the district is continually faced with rising enrollment. District officials anticipate a 1.6 percent rise to 15,510 students next year. “It doesn’t seem to go down,” Heelan said. “They just seem to keep coming.”

As such, next year the district will add 12 positions, including seven new teachers, Heelan said. Four of those teaching positions are at the elementary level; three are at the high school level. The district is also facing corresponding insurance costs for those positions, as well as overall insurance premium increases.

Regarding future enrollment, Heelan said he is concerned about the impact that the township’s proposed affordable housing settlement — which is currently in the courts — will have, particularly in the Amboy Avenue area. Many of the projects proposed for the revitalization in that area have an affordable housing component.

“It’s a big town,” he said. “I don’t know why [the affordable housing units] all have to be concentrated in the same place,” he said.

He added that he is particularly concerned about how the township’s affordable housing plan would impact Herbert Hoover Middle School.

Enrollment is also a big reason for a $10 million capital outlay cost for next year, Heelan said. The addition for the Woodbrook Elementary School, the largest elementary school in the district, comprises $6.5 million of that. The district also needs to make a $1.66 million payment on the Edison High School addition.

Heelan said the district did try come up with alternatives to building expensive additions; for instance, purchasing an unused existing building, but “unfortunately nothing worked out that we could really use,” he said.

Opting to build onto existing schools though means the district can “hopefully … take care of the need where it is.”

However, the district also incurs the cost of resident students who attend public schools in other districts. For instance, Heelan said at $558,000, he believes Edison pays more than any other district for students attending Hatikvah International Charter School, a public elementary and middle school in East Brunswick. The district also will be paying legal fees for a lawsuit it has entered with Highland Park, contesting the financial responsibility for students who attend Hatikvah, with the intent that Edison may eliminate those out-of-district costs in the future.

Heelan also gave an update on construction at James Monroe Elementary, which is running a little behind schedule and may miss its slated September opening.

“It looks like it’s going to be more like October,” he said.

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