Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education members have adopted a $92.3 million budget to fund the operation of the school district during the 2020-21 school year.
Board President Deborah Linthorst, Vice President Adam Sawicki and board members Jessica Grillo, Alyce Murray, Debra O’Reilly, John Mason, Sarah Tracy, Jenny Long and William Herbert voted “yes” on the measure to adopt the budget on April 27.
“I feel this budget is a responsible one. I think our need as a board to work together and support the needs of our students, particularly early in these challenging times, overrides some of the concerns I may have had on how we arrived to this point,” said Deborah Linthorst, president of the Board of Education.
The 2020-21 budget proposes a reduction of four full-time teachers (two from the K-5 level and two from Hopewell Valley Central High School), one administrative position and one secretary’s position.
“In 2019-20 we also made staff reductions to try an work through our budget parameters,” said Thomas Smith, superintendent of schools.
Residential and commercial property owners in the three municipalities that make up the school district – Hopewell Borough, Hopewell Township and Pennington – will pay a total tax levy of $82.16 million to support the $92.3 million budget for the upcoming school year.
The 2019-20 tax levy was $81.2 million, which means property owners in those three municipalities will pay an additional $960,000 in school property taxes to support the district in 2020-21.
“After a discussion we had through finance and facilities the administration is recommending the increase in the use of surplus (savings) to decrease our tax levy. The anticipated surplus was increased to bring down the overall tax levy down to reduce the impact on our taxpayer,” Smith said.
The increased use of surplus resulted in a tax levy decrease of about $80,000 from $82.24 million to $82.16 million in 2020-21.
In Hopewell Borough, the school tax rate will be $1.71 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $404,000 will pay about $6,908 in school taxes in 2020-21.
In Hopewell Township, the school tax rate will be $1.72 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $494,000 will pay about $8,496 in school taxes in 2020-21.
In Pennington, the school tax rate will be $1.62 per $100 of assessed valuations. The owner of a home assessed at $464,000 will pay about $7,516 in school taxes in 2020-21.
School taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill, which also includes municipal taxes and county taxes.
The amount an individual pays in property taxes is determined by the assessed value of his home and/or property, and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.
“Here is my cautionary tale, as we go down this road we do not know what the future holds (COVID-19). I do not know when we will return to school, but I do know that school will look different when we do return,” Smith said. “Is there a potential mandating of smaller classes, will that mean additional staff; will we need additional bus runs to allow for six feet separation of riders; or folks who can’t or choose not to return to work.”