HOWELL – The Howell K-8 School District Board of Education has adopted a $118.1 million budget that will fund the operation of the school district during the 2021-22 school year.
The budget will be supported by a tax levy of $82.04 million to be paid by Howell’s residential and commercial property owners.
Board members Albert Miller, Ira Thor, Jennifer Okerson, Laurence Gurman, MaryRose Malley, Mark Bonjavanni, Cristy Mangano and Scott Jeffrey voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the budget during a meeting on May 5.
For 2020-21, the budget totaled $124.8 million. A tax levy of $82.3 million was paid by Howell property owners. District administrators said the average home was assessed at $363,311 and the owner of that home paid about $3,994 in K-8 school taxes.
For 2021-22, district administrators said the average home in Howell is now assessed at $371,500 and the owner of that home will pay about $4,040 in K-8 school taxes.
Howell K-8 school taxes are one item on an individual’s total property tax bill, which also includes Howell municipal taxes, Monmouth County taxes, Freehold Regional High School District taxes and a fire district tax.
An individual pays more or less in taxes depending on the assessed value of his home and/or property and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.
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 scheduled 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 (the retirement or resignation of current staff members).
Assistant Superintendent for Business Administration Ronald Sanasac presented the budget during the May 5 meeting.
“The priorities for developing the budget are obviously to support and to continue to enhance student and staff learning. It is important that we recognize it is not just student learning, but it is staff learning,” Sanasac said.
He said Howell has great teachers and said it was interesting the budget was being adopted during Teacher Appreciation Week.
“We try wherever possible to reduce and control operational expenses and discretionary costs. I am privileged to work with a business office that fights for every penny and tries to make sure every expense, and every purchase that is made, is made with the end goal in mind of making sure the maximum amount of money is available to go to the classroom and not to other functional costs,” Sanasac said.
He said administrators look for ways to enhance revenue production.
“We do a lot of shared services. We provide busing for Freehold Borough and a child study team for Farmingdale. Those are income-generating shared services. We do as many shared services as we can … for the purpose of ensuring the money is available for the classroom. And all that is an attempt to not only maintain the high-quality education, but to minimize the tax impact and provide continued stability,” Sanasac said.
He said the budget for the 2021-22 academic year will accomplish a lot of objectives and continue the Sustainable New Jersey program.
“The students are engaging in making the planet a better place for them and for the next (generation) to come. Sustainable New Jersey is absorbing what used to be called Future Ready and we are stars in that again,” Sanasac said.
Sanasac said Howell is permitted by a state average to spend about $2,200 per pupil for administrative costs. He said the district spends $1,913 per pupil for administrative costs, which is well below the allowable amount.
Sanasac praised the board’s Finance Committee and the entire school board.
“The foresight the board showed allowed for the (COVID-19) pandemic to not put us in a bad budget situation … we are blessed where we are in a position where we can take care of these things,” he said.
Sanasac said Howell’s administrators are awaiting a decision on their application for more than $400,000 in federal relief funds, but not counting on receiving the money for the 2021-22 budget.