EATONTOWN – The Eatontown Public Schools Board of Education has introduced a $25.4 million budget that will fund the operation of the K-8 district during the 2021-22 school year.
Following a discussion among district administrators and board members, the budget was introduced on March 8. A public hearing is scheduled for April 26. The budget, which may be revised until that date, may be adopted by the board following the public hearing.
The budget for the upcoming school year will be supported by a tax levy of $17.7 million to be paid by Eatontown’s residential and commercial property owners.
The school district’s 2020-21 budget totaled $25.1 million and was supported by a tax levy of $17.4 million.
Specific information about the tax impact of the 2020-21 budget on the borough’s property owners is expected to be provided when the budget is considered for adoption.
During 2020-21, Eatontown received $2.93 million in state aid. For 2021-22, Eatontown will receive $2.41 million in state aid, a decrease of $522,703.
The school district’s state aid has decreased each year since the enactment of state legislation known as S-2 in 2018. Under S-2, the reduction in state aid to the school district will continue through the 2024-25 school year.
Following the introduction of the budget, Superintendent of Schools Scott McCue said, “The 2021-22 tentative school budget is the district’s mechanism for funding its educational, as well as health and wellness priorities.
“The budget was crafted to maintain as many quality programs and resources as possible in spite of the drastic state aid cuts under S-2. This budget reflects the third straight year of the S-2 funding reductions.
“In order to balance the 2021-22 school budget, the district used $741,570 in excess surplus, down from $1.36 million the year prior, increased the tax levy by 2%, used $399,500 in maintenance reserve funds, and reduced a few staff positions through retirements. The board and the administration tried to retain as much staff as possible due to the complexities caused by the (coronavirus) pandemic,” McCue said.
“The district did receive $1 million in ESSER-II (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds from the federal government.
“This one-time funding will help to soften the loss of state aid in 2021-22. However, these one-time funds will not replace the significant loss of state aid in the past, present and future.
“Using ESSER-II funding, the district plans to hire two additional school counselors to help support students’ social and emotional learning needs and wellness. In addition, the district plans to offer summer programs to address learning loss resulting from the pandemic.
“Quite honestly, the impact of the S-2 reduction in next year’s budget was not as drastic as the public may have thought due to the infusion of federal stimulus into our budget.
“It bears repeating that once these federal funds are used, the resources will not be available for future budgets. The budget gaps will be significant and painful in the future.
“Eatontown Public Schools bought itself another year of time. In the next budget cycle, the district will experience another $530,000 reduction in state aid, bringing Eatontown’s total state aid from $3.8 million to $1.4 million once all the future cuts are enacted,” McCue said.