Howell school board adopts $124.8 million budget for 2020-21


HOWELL – The Howell K-8 School District Board of Education has adopted a $124.8 million budget to fund the operation of the school district during the 2020-21 school year.

Board members voted unanimously to adopt the budget during a meeting on May 6.

Howell’s residential and commercial property owners will pay $82.3 million in a local tax levy to support the operation of the school district in the upcoming academic year, which runs from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

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

For tax year 2019, the owner of a home that was assessed at the township average of $352,749 paid about $3,883 in K-8 school taxes.

For tax year 2020, the owner of a home assessed at the township average of $363,311 will pay about $3,994 in K-8 school taxes.

According to a budget document posted on the district’s website, the enrollment on Oct. 15, 2018 was 5,612 pupils. The enrollment on Oct. 15, 2019 was 5,601 pupils. The estimated enrollment for Oct. 15, 2020 is 5,600 pupils.

In 2020-21, Howell will continue to see its state aid decrease under the terms of legislation known as S-2 that was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018. The law changed the way state aid is distributed among New Jersey’s school districts.

After receiving $32.63 million in state aid for 2018-19, Howell received $30.98 million for 2019-20. For 2020-21, the school district will receive $28.18 million in state aid; representing a decrease of $4.45 million in two years.

The reduction in state aid as mandated by S-2 is expected to continue each year through the 2024-25 school year. Some Garden State school districts that are losing a significant amount of state aid under S-2 have filed a lawsuit against the state in an attempt to reverse the decreases.

The board’s president, Mark Bonjavanni, said he does not think anyone should be surprised to know these are uncertain times.

“We still have not gotten final numbers (of state aid) from Trenton. We would not be surprised to see (Howell’s 2020-21 state aid amount) changed … So understand this budget was prepared, conceived and worked on with what was available, what we know today. So again, these are uncertain times,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent Ron Sanasac said, “Last year we were in strange times, this year we are in even stranger times. (State officials) have until Sept. 30 to let us know whether they are going to fulfill the promise (of 2020-21 state aid) that was made in February in the governor’s (budget) address.

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that we provide more services in this community than any other organization. We serve more meals than all the restaurants, we transport 6,000 students to and from school.

“I recognize we are not doing that right now (because of the coronavirus pandemic that has closed schools and led to virtual instruction), but we plan on doing it and this budget provides for it. We care for more minors than any other institution and I might say the teachers are still doing that in a remote environment, and doing it well,” he said.

After accounting for state aid and money appropriated from the surplus fund, “that leaves the balance of the money … to be raised by the local tax levy. You see that the local tax levy ($82.3 million) is the lion’s share of the ($124.8 million) budget,” Sanasac said.