Hillsborough school budget could bring layoffs, larger class sizes, fees


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The Hillsborough Township Public Schools Board of Education has introduced a tentative budget of $126 million to fund the operation of the school district during the 2019-20 school year.

Residential and commercial property owners will pay $99 million in property taxes to support that budget, according to district administrators.

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Administrators said that in the face of an ongoing reduction in the amount of state aid the school district is receiving, staff members may be laid off, courtesy busing may be reduced and class sizes may be larger in the upcoming school year.

According to the state Department of Education, the school district’s state aid will be reduced from $24.93 million in 2018-19 to $24.4 million in 2019-20 – a reduction of $526,000.

District administrators said the school tax rate for 2019-20 is projected to be $1.595 per $100 of assessed valuation. With that tax rate in place, the owner of a home that is assessed at $400,000 would pay $6,380 in school taxes in the upcoming year.

The owner of a home that is assessed at $500,000 would pay $7,975 in school taxes in the upcoming year.

The owner of a home that is assessed at $600,000 would pay $9,570 in school taxes in the upcoming year.

“On March 18, the board voted on a tentative budget for 2019-20 that is approximately $5 million less than what is needed to maintain staffing levels, programming, class size and fee structure in our district,” Superintendent of Schools Jordan Schiff said.

“In order to balance the budget, the district is considering reducing staff levels, increasing class size, as well as implementing additional fees and reducing courtesy busing. The final budget will be approved at the April 29 board meeting.

“The district is now considering the reduction of approximately 50 staff members across all schools, all departments and all classifications of employees. As a result, class sizes will increase.

“Additional fees may need to be assessed to families for technology, athletics and co-curricular activities. The district may also need to increase building usage fees paid by many community organizations that use our school facilities,” Schiff said.

The superintendent said courtesy busing for students who live within a certain distance of the school they attend may be reduced.

“As state aid continues to be reduced, additional cuts will continue for the next six years and will impact the district’s ability to address the individual needs of our students,” Schiff said.

Administrators said the district’s budget has been limited by a 2 percent cap on the tax levy (the amount of taxes that can be collected from property owners) while costs outside of the district’s control, such as healthcare and special education, continue to exceed 2 percent growth.

In order to maintain programming, class size and staff, the board was forced to use a portion of its fund balance (savings), according to administrators.

“Financial concerns were compounded (in the summer of 2018) when the state announced it would reduce state aid to Hillsborough by $5.3 million over the next six years,” Schiff said.

“Passage of the March 12 referendum the board placed before voters (which was defeated) would have allowed Hillsborough to maintain the current programs and class sizes and would have avoided additional fees from being placed on families and community members.

“The referendum’s passage also would have allowed the district to implement a full-day kindergarten program at all six elementary schools for the start of the 2019-20 school year,” the superintendent said.

A public hearing on the 2019-20 school budget will be held at 7:30 p.m. April 29 at the Auten Road Intermediate School, 281 Auten Road. Residents may comment on and ask questions about the budget at that time.

The tentative budget the board introduced on March 18 may be revised until the date of the public hearing.

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