The Cranbury Township Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a $19.7 million budget to fund the operation of the school district during the 2020-21 school year.
Board President Karen Callahan and board members Peter Katz, Lisa Rue, Laura Hoffman, Lindsay McDowell, Dominique Jones, Pramod Chivate, Amy Dixon and Rob Christopher voted “yes” on the measure to adopt on April 29.
“I think this is a budget that everyone of our board members should be proud of. This budget not only maintains but continues to push forward a fiscally responsible budget, while also maintaining and furthering our education programs,” said Nicole Petrone, business administrator for the Cranbury School District. “It not only looks to continue the implementation of our strategic plan and provides a wide range of curricular and professional development.”
She added that the budget provides for three additional staffing positions (general education teacher, special education teacher and a English language learner teacher), expansion of technology infrastructure, and maintains capital reserves and facilities.
Residential and commercial property owners in the township will pay a total tax levy of $17.91 million to support the $19.7 million budget for the upcoming school year.
The 2019-20 tax levy was $17.53 million, which means property owners will pay about $400,000 in additional school property taxes to support the district in 2020-21.
Cranbury’s state aid will be increased by about $82,000, from $633,000 in 2019-20 to $716,000 in 2020-21.
“The Middlesex County business administrator told us that they have not been told that our state aid will be cut, but that there is still a lot of discussion to come down the pipeline [due to COVID-19 revenue impact],” Petrone said. “In planning for that Susan Genco [superintendent and principal] and I are having preliminary discussions on how we would go about a potential loss in state aid for worse case scenario if we did not receive any of that aid for our budget.”
She added that the district does have four retirements and three new staffing positions built into the budget, which would give the district $500,000 to work with if state aid figure is not the projected estimate.
In Cranbury, the school tax rate is expected to be $1.01 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $607,000 will pay about $6,130 in school taxes in 2020-21.
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.
School taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill, which also includes municipal taxes and county taxes.
During the 2019-20 school year, the tax rate was $1.09 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at the borough average of $607,000 paid about $6,616 in school taxes in 2020-21.
Cranbury School district administrators estimate 496 enrolled students in 2020-21 for kindergarten through eighth grade, an increase of 14 students from 2019-20. Administrators attribute the slight increase to new affordable housing developments in Cranbury.
The Princeton High School student enrollment is expected to be 252, a decrease of 15 students from 2019-20.
The Cranbury School district budget covers items that include Princeton High tuition and services, K-8 regular education programs, employee benefits, operations, maintenance, security, special education and transportation.
District administrators said they are keeping the novel coronavirus impact on the budget at the forefront of their minds.
“We are working on the re-entry plan that includes physical re-entry of students into the school cost wise and what our budget impact will be. We are exploring a wide variety of issues from transportation to food service,” Petrone said. “We do not have an answer yet, but we are preparing for it.”