HOWELL – The Howell K-8 School District Board of Education will hold a public hearing on May 5 regarding the adoption of a $118.1 million budget that will fund the operation of the school district during the 2021-22 school year.
Board members Albert Miller, Denise Lowe, Ira Thor, Jennifer Okerson, Laurence Gurman, MaryRose Malley, Mark Bonjavanni and Scott Jeffrey voted to introduce the budget during a meeting on March 17. Board member Cristy Mangano was absent from the meeting.
The school district’s 2020-21 budget totaled $124.8 million and included a tax levy of $82.3 million that was paid by Howell’s residential and commercial property owners. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $363,311 paid about $3,994 in K-8 school taxes.
The 2021-22 budget proposes a tax levy of $82.04 million to be paid by Howell’s residential and commercial property owners. Information regarding the impact of the budget on school taxes is expected to be available during the May 5 public hearing.
The Howell school district will see a decrease in state aid of $3 million from $28.19 million in 2020-21 to $25.16 million in 2021-22 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. As recently as the 2018-19 school year, Howell received $32.63 million in state aid.
The reduction in state aid as mandated by S-2 is expected to continue each year through the 2024-25 school year. Some school districts that are losing state aid under S-2 have filed a lawsuit against the state regarding the legislation.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Isola said any reduction in the district’s staff that occurs prior to the start of the 2021-22 school year would be accomplished through attrition, such as the retirement or resignation of current staff members.
“We do not anticipate the need to have a reduction in force of (non-retiring or non-resigning) staff members,” Isola said.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Administration Ronald Sanasac said losing $3 million in state aid from 2020-21 to 2021-22 is “huge” for the district.
“We are reducing some of our surpluses and we are not advancing some projects that could be advanced. We are lease-purchasing some things we had originally planned on buying fully purchased. We are able to manage it, but as (the reductions scheduled by S-2) continue, there are going to be worse and worse decisions to make,” Sanasac said.
According to a budget document posted on the school district’s website, Howell’s enrollment on Oct. 15, 2018 was 5,612 pupils; the enrollment on Oct. 15, 2019 was 5,601 pupils; and the estimated enrollment for Oct. 15, 2020 was 5,600 pupils. District administrators have not provided an estimated enrollment for October 2021.