The members of the Upper Freehold Regional School District Board of Education have adopted a $43.6 million budget that will fund the operation of the district during the 2022-23 school year.
Residential and commercial property owners in Allentown and Upper Freehold Township will pay a $28.6 million local tax levy to support the budget.
The budget that was adopted on May 2 includes $38.4 million in operating expenses, $4.24 million to be paid as debt service and $953,830 in special revenue.
Of the $38.4 million that has been budgeted for operating expenses, $11.4 million (29.6%) will be spent on regular program instruction, which includes salaries and supplies. The second most costly item is employee benefits at $7.25 million (18.9%), according to budget information posted on the school district’s website.
Upper Freehold Regional consists of three schools: the Newell Elementary School, the Stone Bridge Middle School and Allentown High School. The schools are attended by students who reside in Upper Freehold Township and in Allentown.
Residential and commercial property owners will share the cost of the $28.6 million tax levy for 2022-23. Upper Freehold property owners will pay 88% of the tax levy and Allentown property owners will pay 12% of the tax levy.
Students of high school age who reside in Millstone Township attend Allentown High School through a send-receive relationship between Upper Freehold Regional and the Millstone Township K-8 School District. Millstone Township pays tuition for each student it sends to Allentown High School.
The tuition rate per student is expected to be $13,600 during the 2022-23 school year. As recently as the 2020-21 school year, the tuition rate was $14,315 per student, according to a budget presentation.
There are expected to be 464 students from Millstone Township attending Allentown High School during the 2022-23 school year; a decrease of one student from the current academic year, according to a budget presentation.
In 2021-22, the school tax rate in Upper Freehold was about $1.86 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $547,100 paid about $10,176 in school taxes.
In 2022-23, the school tax rate in Upper Freehold is projected to decrease to about $1.71 per $100 of assessed valuation.
However, even though the tax rate is decreasing, that does not mean an Upper Freehold property owner’s school tax will decrease in the upcoming year.
The current assessed value of an individual’s home or property will, in part, determine the school tax to be paid. If, for example, the assessed value of a home and/or property is $600,000, the school tax would be about $10,260.
In 2021-22, the school tax rate in Allentown was about $1.83 per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home in the borough was assessed at $292,860 and the owner of that home paid about $5,358 in school taxes.
In 2022-23, the school tax rate in Allentown is projected to decrease to about $1.81 per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home in the borough is now assessed at $293,116 and the owner of that home will pay about $5,305 in school taxes.
A decrease in the tax rate does not necessarily mean an Allentown property owner will pay less in school taxes.
School taxes are one item on a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes municipal taxes and Monmouth County taxes.
The amount of taxes a property owner pays is determined by the assessed value of the individual’s home and/or property and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.
Upper Freehold Regional’s 2021-22 budget totaled $43.1 million and was supported by a tax levy of $28.1 million. From 2021-22 to 2022-23, the total budget is increasing by $500,000 and the tax levy is also increasing by about $500,000.
For the 2021-22 school year, Upper Freehold Regional’s budget was supported by the receipt of $4.75 million in state aid.
For the 2022-23 school year, Upper Freehold Regional’s budget is expected to be supported by the receipt of $4.33 million in state aid, a decrease of $420,000.
Upper Freehold Regional’s state aid has decreased each year since the enactment of state legislation known as S-2 in 2018.
The budget presentation lists numerous highlights of the budget for the upcoming school year, including:
• Creates a full-time security position at Stone Bridge Middle School;
• Brings landscape program in house with the hiring of an additional full-time staff;
• Maintains a full-time assistant principal at Newell Elementary (change from part-time to full-time);
• Provides for a new special education teacher at Stone Bridge Middle School;
• Maintains police traffic control services at AHS dismissal;
• Replaces Chromebook laptop computers for students in grades 1, 5 and 9;
• Replaces outdated and obsolete AHS weight room equipment;
• Curriculum updates and enhancements in math, science, social studies, world language, technology, and visual and performing arts;
“We are happy the budget has been approved by the Monmouth County (executive superintendent) and by the Board of Education,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Guterl said.
“The budget process is always labor intensive, especially because of the continued loss of state aid due to the S-2 funding formula. This year, we did not have the enormous impact on staff, but still had a few cuts, which are always difficult to take.