HomeExaminerExaminer NewsMillstone school board introduces $39.9M budget for 2020-21

Millstone school board introduces $39.9M budget for 2020-21

MILLSTONE – The Millstone Township K-8 School District Board of Education has introduced a $39.9 million budget that will fund the operation of the district during the 2020-21 school year.

Following a discussion among district administrators and board members, the budget was introduced on March 9. A public hearing is scheduled for April 27. The budget, which may be revised until that time, may be adopted by the board following the public hearing.

The $39.9 million budget will be supported by a tax levy of $32.7 million to be paid by Millstone Township’s residential and commercial property owners. Other revenue includes $1.12 million from the district’s surplus fund (savings).

The 2019-20 budget had a school tax rate of $1.722 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $500,000 paid about $8,610 in school taxes.

For 2020-21, the school tax rate will increase to $1.744 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $500,000 will pay about $8,720 in school taxes.

School taxes are one component of a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes Monmouth County taxes, Millstone Township municipal taxes and other assessments. An individual pays more or less in taxes depending on the assessed value of his home and/or property and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.

In 2019, the $39.6 million budget adopted by the board for the 2019-20 school year was supported by a tax levy of $32.2 million and the receipt of $4.46 million in state aid.

For the 2020-21 school year, Millstone will receive $4.06 million in state aid, a decrease of $395,497.

The school district’s state aid has decreased each year since the enactment of state legislation known as S-2 in 2018. Millstone is projected to lose a total of $2.1 million in state aid under S-2 through 2024-25, according to district administrators.

After the budget was introduced, Superintendent of Schools Christopher Huss said, “While preparing the budget is always a very involved process, this year was once again especially challenging.

“For the third year in a row, we suffered a significant loss of state aid while expenses such as building operations, special education services, health care coverage and out-of-district tuition continue to rise. The funding formula created by the state appears to ignore these factors, among many others, while over-relying on enrollment data and undisclosed multipliers.

“The formula being implemented gives the impression Millstone residents have not been paying their ‘local fair share’ in taxes. That is the term used in the funding formula, which is a primary reason why our state aid has been reduced nearly $1 million in three years.
“Essentially, the legislators are using these reductions to send a message that districts such as ours should balance their budget by raising local property taxes to the maximum rates allowed by law,” Huss said.
“If the S-2 funding formula continues to be implemented as it is currently, and these cuts persist through 2025 as projected, difficult decisions will have to be made. Educational programs, key resources and all non-essential support services will be compromised, class sizes will increase, programs will be decimated and the educational experience we have become accustomed to in Millstone will drastically change.
“I applaud our business administrator, Bernie Biesiada, and the nine members of our Board of Education for working diligently to create and approve a preliminary budget that is as fiscally responsible as possible while avoiding catastrophic impacts to the schools and students,” Huss said.
“Despite the state’s cuts, we remain committed to doing what is best for the students and steadfast in our mission to stay at the forefront of education.
“We are proud of our cutting-edge STEM electives, robust curriculum and progressive character education programs; and we persist in being committed to offering experiences in the arts and extensive extracurricular activities. All of these are supported by this year’s budget and we are hopeful we can maintain them for the foreseeable future,” the superintendent said.
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