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Howell school board adopts $123 million budget for 2019-20

HOWELL – The Howell K-8 School District Board of Education has adopted a budget of $123.13 million to fund the operation of the school district during the 2019-20 school year.

A public hearing on the budget was held on May 6. Board President Mark Bonjavanni, Vice President Albert Miller and board members Laurence Gurman, MaryRose Malley, Scott Jeffrey and Jennifer Okerson voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the budget.

Board members Ira Thor and Cristy Mangano were absent.

Howell’s residential and commercial property owners will pay $80.47 million in a local tax levy to support the operation of the school district in the upcoming year.

The Howell school district will see its state aid continue to decrease during the 2019-20 school year. After receiving $32.63 million in state aid for 2018-19, the school district will receive $30.98 million for 2019-20 – a decrease of $1.65 million.

The reduction in state aid began in 2018-19 and is expected to continue through the 2024-25 school year under the terms of legislation signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018 which changed the way state aid is distributed among New Jersey’s school districts.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Administration Ronald Sanasac presented the budget to the public on May 6.

“As we are trying to minimize the past impact we have to remember the current legislative environment is not one that is foreseeable with all certainty. This budget does accomplish a lot of things; one thing we are very proud of is that we are recognized as one of only a few districts with all of its schools having received future ready certification,” Sanasac said.

According to the Future Ready Schools New Jersey website, the certification program “is designed to provide direction, guidance, support and connections to resources for New Jersey schools that are dedicated to best preparing their students for success in college, career and citizenship.”

Sanasac said administrators will continue to meet curriculum requirements and maintain the school district’s technological advantage as they maintain and update the district’s facilities.

“One thing we have to make sure we do not lose sight of is that we are also a major part of the community. We provide more services to more of the citizens of this town than any other organization or institution in town.

“On a daily basis, we serve more meals than all the restaurants in town, we transport 6,000 students to and from school every day, we care for more minors than any other institution and we are by far the largest employer in Howell. We employ more residents and more personnel in total,” Sanasac said.

In regard to state aid, Gurman said the school district is receiving about the same amount of state aid it was receiving a decade ago.

“We now are at the same number, roughly $30 million, as we were at 10 years ago and yet, even with modest inflation in this country, about 2% a year, if you compound that over 10 years and you realize, again, that costs go up for everything and you still have to maintain that system,” Gurman said.

Gurman said he has financial concerns for the 2020-21 school year.

Miller has said that by the 2024-25 school year, Howell will have seen its state aid reduced by almost $13 million over seven years.

“Last year at the last second, the state took a huge amount of money from us. So when we put out our budget (for 2019-20), being fiscally responsible, we put out a budget that would get us through the year and we trust that we would be able to survive,” he said.

Administrators said there will not be any staff reductions, nor will any programs be eliminated during the upcoming school year.

“We want to be able to prevent those kind of things from happening. Not that we are fearful, we were not going to make any of those kind of cuts today, but what if something happens,” Bonjavanni said.

According to district administrators, for tax year 2018, the owner of a home assessed at the township average of $342,475 paid $3,876 in K-8 school taxes.

According to district administrators, for tax year 2019, the owner of a home assessed at the current township average of $352,749 will pay $3,883 in K-8 school taxes.

Howell K-8 school taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill, which also includes Howell municipal taxes, Monmouth County taxes, Freehold Regional High School District taxes, a fire district tax and other assessments.

The amount of taxes a property owner pays is determined by the assessed value of his home and/or property and the tax rate established by each taxing entity.

The school district’s enrollment on Oct. 13, 2017 was 5,761 pupils. The enrollment on Oct. 15, 2018 was 5,612 pupils. The enrollment for Oct. 15, 2019 is estimated at 5,611 pupils.

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