By GLORIA STRAVELLI
METUCHEN — The Metuchen School District Board of Education voted to adopt a $44.8 million budget to fund programs, services and day-to-day operations of the district for the 2021-22 school year.
The $44,876,429 budget adopted by a unanimous vote of board members at the final budget hearing on April 27 represents a $2,406,527 increase over the 2020-21 district budget.
The school tax levy to support the district budget is $42,019,893, and calls for a tax rate of $3.849 per $100 of assessed valuation for property owners.
“As much as budgets are about dollars and cents, and taxes and impact to the community, budgets are equally as much about priorities in the district,” Superintendent Vincent Caputo said. “So I always like to start out with some highlights – what this budget will allow us to do and continue to do at each school.
“Our focus, you’ve heard me say this over and over again … I’ve always talked about academics and arts and athletics and how critical it is … we’re always focused on the academics, the arts and the athletics.”
Among the highlights he cited: In the previous academic year 94% of the Metuchen High School Class of 2020 pursued higher education, adding, “but we also pride ourselves on the other opportunities to ready students to pursue other passions.”
According to the district’s budget presentation, the owner of a home assessed at $211,143 will pay $8,125 in property taxes to support the budget, an increase of 1.0 percent, or $77, over last year.
Appropriations funded in the budget include: salaries, $26,458,425; health insurance, $5.9 million; tuition/OT PT Speech, $3,496,353; transportation contracts, $1,454,364; and $2,626,070 for roof replacements and repairs.
The budget includes funding for three newly created positions: a special services supervisor, $110,000; and a wrestling coach and a cheerleading coach, each $10,008.
Following Caputo’s presentation, board Chair Brian Glassberg said, “The budget is a responsible budget that maintains our core values, maintains the upkeep of the buildings and the educational needs that our families expect and deserve.”
Board member Justin Manley commented on the fiscal management of the district, citing Business Administrator Michael Harvier, and noting that the district was able to weather the “fiscal storm” of the pandemic.
“We are in a position where we are able to continually focus on the things that are priorities of the district,” Manley said, “while maintaining buildings, infrastructure and facilities that are … perceived by many to be brand new.”
“We are able to discuss referendums and able to take roofs off the list, take things off the list, that we are ahead on – all of this when, quite frankly, communities that surround us and even further away in this state struggle to find the dollars and cents to maintain classrooms in a fashion that parents would want for their children. We are talking about what comes next, we are talking about our future,” he said.
In addition to the tax levy, revenues include $2,038,786 in state aid; $1,180,285 in appropriations from the district’s Special Revenue Fund; and $275,000 in transportation revenues.
According to the district’s budget presentation, numerous efficiencies were adopted to mitigate the tax increase, including an integrated preschool program; transportation jointures and cooperative purchasing with other school districts.
The final budget presentation is available on the district Facebook page, and the district website provides a link to the April 27 meeting.
The Metuchen School District operates four schools, educating students in grades pre-K through 12.
The board will next meet on May 11 at 8 p.m., at Metuchen High School, 400 Grove Ave.