Manalapan-Englishtown school board adopts $97.15M budget for 2020-21

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The Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education has adopted a $97.15 million budget to fund the operation of the school district during the 2020-21 school year.

Board members unanimously adopted the budget during a virtual meeting on May 5.

The $97.15 million budget for 2020-21 will be funded through anticipated revenues of $27.53 million and the collection of $69.62 million in property taxes from residential and commercial property owners in Manalapan and Englishtown, according to a resolution board members passed.

Residential and commercial property owners in Manalapan will pay a local tax levy of $67.23 million (96.56% of the total tax levy) in 2020-21.

The K-8 school tax rate in Manalapan for 2020-21 will be 94.4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $453,733 will pay about $4,283 in K-8 school taxes during the upcoming year.

Residential and commercial property owners in Englishtown will pay a local tax levy of $2.39 million (3.44% of the total tax levy) in 2020-21.

The K-8 school tax rate in Englishtown for 2020-21 will be 90.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $350,000 will pay about $3,175 in K-8 school taxes during the upcoming year.

The spending plan for the upcoming school year will incorporate a $2.3 million reduction in state aid. During the past decade, the district has seen its state aid decrease from $21.5 million in 2009-20 to $14.93 million for 2020-21.

State aid is expected to continue to decrease over the next several years until it reaches $7 million, according to district administrators.

The school district’s 2019-20 budget totaled $93.44 million and was supported by the collection of $68.3 million in taxes from property owners in Manalapan and Englishtown.

The 2019-20 school year saw a continuing reduction in the district’s state aid in accordance with legislation known as S-2 that was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018. State aid to the district declined from $18.77 million in 2018-19 to $17.23 million in 2019-20.

The district’s state aid will be reduced from $17.23 million in 2019-20 to $14.93 million for 2020-21, according to information released by the New Jersey Department of Education.

According to Manalapan-Englishtown administrators, the district’s state aid is scheduled to be reduced by an additional $2.93 million for 2021-22, by an additional $2.7 million for 2022-23, by an additional $1.7 million for 2023-24 and by an additional $540,000 for 2024-25.

Manalapan-Englishtown is among a group of New Jersey school districts that have filed a lawsuit against the state as a result of S-2.

Superintendent of Schools John J. Marciante Jr. said district administrators “are continuing our advocacy for our financial situation. The lawsuit we filed last year is close to having a hearing, and that may occur in June.”

Marciante said given the financial straits in which New Jersey finds itself as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it is possible the school district could see the state aid that was promised for 2020-21 reduced when Gov. Phil Murphy delivers another budget address at the end of August. The state’s fiscal year has been extended from July to September.

“We are thinking about being prepared for that (a further reduction in state aid),” the superintendent said.

The board took the following actions as part of the budget’s adoption:

• Withdrew $50,000 from capital reserve. The district intends to use these funds for the purpose of upgrading school security systems throughout the district;

• Withdrew $1.63 million from capital reserve. The district intends to use these funds for the purpose of renovating areas in the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School, Manalapan, to support the relocation of administrative and support staff from the district’s headquarters in Englishtown.

Marciante said the renovation project at the middle school could be delayed pending the updated state aid amount that is expected to be received in the late summer.

• Withdrew $200,000 from capital reserve. The district intends to use these funds for the purpose of establishing a bus yard to house approximately 20 mini buses in the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School parking lot;

• Withdrew $500,000 from maintenance reserve. The district intends to use these funds for the purpose of providing required maintenance activities throughout the district as indicated in the comprehensive maintenance plan that was approved by the board on Sept. 17, 2019.

According to a budget document posted on the district’s website, there were 4,952 pupils enrolled on Oct. 15, 2018; 4,865 pupils enrolled on Oct. 15, 2019; and the projected enrollment for Oct. 15, 2020 is 4,847 pupils.