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Metuchen officials gear up for what 2020-21 school year will bring, budget carries $32 tax increase for average homeowner

METUCHEN – The Metuchen School District is making sure they stay ahead of whatever the 2020-21 school year may bring.

That is why the 2020-21 school budget includes an adjustment to budgeted fund balance for transportation and compensatory services in the amount of $290,461.

“Due to the school closure [because of the novel coronavirus pandemic], we identified costs we would likely incur in the 2020-21 school year,” School Business Administrator Michael Harvier said. “We estimated unspent expenses that were in the 2019-20 [budget] and rolled it to the 2020-21 [budget]. There is no impact to the tax levy.”

The Metuchen Board of Education adopted a $42.47 million budget at a meeting on April 28.

The budget is supported by the collection of a $38.97 million tax levy from the township’s residential and commercial property owners. Harvier said the tax levy makes up 92% of the budget.

The school district’s 2019-20 budget totaled $39.76 million and was supported by the collection of a $37.23 million tax levy.

The district received an enrollment adjustment, which is based on unhoused students, to go beyond the 2% tax cap.

The adjustment of $276,830 allows for four additional special education teachers to keep up with the new mental health initiatives as students move up in grades. The budget includes 1.5 teachers at Moss School, which addresses the needs of incoming students; two teachers at Edgar Middle School, which covers programs and expands math time; and one teacher at Metuchen High School.

The district received $1.80 million in state aid, an increase of $263,750 from last year. Harvier noted the state aid numbers are about the same state aid they received in the 2008-09 school year.

Metuchen ratables equal $1.08 billion, which increased by $20 million from last year.

District administrators said for the owner of a home assessed at the township average of $206,645, school taxes will increase by $32 from 2019-20, which saw a $19 school tax increase.

In 2020-21, the school tax rate is projected to be $3.81 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at the township average will pay about $7,876 in school taxes, or 0.4% over last year.

In 2019-20, the school tax rate was $3.73 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at the township average paid about $7,525.

The amount of school taxes an individual pays is determined by the assessed value of his home and/or property and the tax rate that is set by the school district.

The 2020-21 budget supports the district’s mental health initiative with a new therapeutic program at Campbell Elementary and Edgar Middle schools through Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (RUBHC), the therapeutic program at Metuchen High School through Effective School Solutions [ESS], two additional school psychologists, additional behavioral support interventions, academic intervention teachers in literacy and math, learning strategies support programs, and clerical support for special services.

With public support for a $700,000 second budget question in November 2019, the district was able to broaden ESS services as well as bring in RUBHC for therapeutic services.

The budget supports the continuation to develop a transition program for students with disabilities ages 18-21, increases in special education programs, professional development, speech therapy coaching, summer curriculum revisions, supplies and field trips, one-to-one technology initiative for rising fifth and ninth grade students, surface upgrades for some administrative users, and projector upgrades for Smart Boards.

The budget also supports the continuation of proactive maintenance of all district buildings – Moss Elementary, Campbell Elementary, Edgar Middle and Metuchen High schools – and athletic fields, continuation of parking lot maintenance at all buildings, completion of science labs, and various safety enhancements.

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