Eatontown school board adopts $25M budget for 2020-21

EATONTOWN – The Eatontown Public Schools Board of Education has adopted a $25.06 million budget to fund the operation of the school district during the 2020-21 school year.

Board members adopted the $25.06 million budget during a meeting on April 27. The budget will be supported by the collection of $17.36 million in taxes from the borough’s residential and commercial property owners.

The school district’s 2019-20 budget totaled $25.09 million and was supported in part through the collection of a $17.04 million tax levy.

Under the terms of a 2018 state law known as S-2, Eatontown will continue to see a reduction in state aid, with a decrease from $3.65 million in 2019-20 to $3.17 million in 2020-21. Under S-2, the reduction in state aid to the school district will continue through the 2024-25 school year.

In 2019-20, the local school tax rate was 77.1 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home in the borough was assessed at $310,000. The owner of that home paid $2,390 in local school taxes.

In 2020-21, the local school tax rate is projected to be 76.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $310,000 will pay $2,384 in local school taxes.

The pre-K-8 district had an enrollment of 945 pupils in 2018-19 and an enrollment of 958 pupils in 2019-20. The estimated enrollment for 2020-21 is 1,041 pupils, according to a budget document that is posted on the district’s website.

According to a budget presentation, the 2020-21 budget includes a $447,478 technology investment.

District administrators said this funding includes resources to maintain the number of student as well as staff devices, purchase new hardware and software, assessment programs to track students’ progress in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics, and the continuation of technology training for staff members.

In addition, these resources support the plan for the refreshing of devices according to the 10-year technology plan.

Currently, the district supports a 1:1 student to computer ratio for Grades 2-8.

The resources also support a third year of implementation of the i-Ready Program for district ELA and math benchmark assessments, according to district administrators.

Asked by the Atlantic Hub to comment on the budget, Superintendent of Schools Scott T. McCue said, “the Board of Education and administration are working hard each year to preserve as well as extend learning opportunities for the students with each new budget.

“However, the increase in the special education, English Language Learners, and free and reduced lunch populations at a time when the district is losing large amounts of state aid is creating tremendous financial pressure on our budget each year.

“During the next school year when the board and administration develop the 2021-22 school budget, we will need to account for another reduction in state aid of about $580,000,” McCue said.

“As a leader and an educator, I try and remain optimistic that through this process the district will be able to maintain quality educational programs for students.

“However, the reality is when we look ahead, the costs of the COVID-19 crisis as well as the S-2 legislation on the local community and on the state will most likely further reduce our school budgets in the future.

“Hence, future trimming of the school budget will need to continue, forcing our district to cut staff and programs, and possibly the operation of one school in the future,” he said.

“When I hear plans to reduce class sizes or move to split sessions in order to provide social distancing for students and staff, these measures are far from reality for districts like Eatontown.

“Eatontown Public Schools cares about the well-being of the school community, but the funding is just not there to support these options.

“Our district as well as many others have been placed in tough, challenging positions to say it diplomatically. The entire school funding formula and process need to be revisited now.  The issues related to school funding will not improve on their own. Lack of action will only further increase the divide and problem in the years ahead,” McCue said.