‘Something’s gotta give’

Hillsborough Township School District introduces tentative school budget. Officials will work on balancing budget for next few weeks.

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When it comes to the annual budget, Schools Superintendent Michael Volpe tends to be on the conservative side.

“I’m not a willy nilly spender,” he said. “I make sure I have a predictable and rationale way of thinking when it comes to budgeting because we do have limited resources and everyone understands that.”

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As Volpe sat down with school officials including Business Administrator/Board Secretary Gerald Eckert and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Kim T. Feltre, he projected a 64.1%, or $400,000, cut in state aid for the 2024-25 budget.

“I jacked up the amount according to the history of data,” Volpe said at a township board of education meeting on March 18. “We looked at $400,000 worth of cuts and it was hard … but we found them, cutting [the budget] to the bone.”

Coming into this year, the district was projected to lose $243,694. For historical data, Volpe said the school district has experienced a total of $7 million in state aid cuts over the past five years. It has been the only school district in Somerset County to lose state aid since the state S2 school funding formula that made state aid allocation changes.

However, when state aid numbers were released on Feb. 29 indicating a $2.3 million state aid cut, or now 1,019.6%, for the Hillsborough Township Public School District, it has left school officials reeling.

This year, Franklin Township is also experiencing a state aid cut of $386,982, or 1.80%, to its school budget.

“Nobody can prepare for that,” Volpe said of the drastic cut. “I don’t care how good of a budget manager I am, nobody can prepare that the cut will be 1,000 percent higher than you thought.”

And with factors such as inflation and consumer price index numbers as well as contractual and health care obligations, school officials are “financially shackled.”

“Something’s gotta give,” Volpe said. “This is not sustainable and not something that can be done over time.”

The 2024-25 budget is the final year of S2, but school officials do not know what the future school funding formula will mean for the township.

The Hillsborough Township Board of Education introduced a $145.62 million spending plan for the 2024-25 school year. The main drivers of the budget are salary and benefits, transportation, special education and buildings and grounds.

Despite the state aid cuts, the tentative school budget proposes a decrease in the school tax rate for Hillsborough Township and Millstone residents.

Hillsborough School Tax Rate:

  • 2024 School Tax Rate: 1.3492.
  • Change from 2023 School Tax Rate: -0.0415.
  • Percentage Change from 2023 School Tax Rate: -2.98%.
  • The average home assessed at $547,355 will pay $7,385 in 2024.
  • For the sixth year in a row, the school tax rate for Hillsborough Township residents has gone down.

Millstone School Tax Rate:

  • 2024 School Tax Rate: 0.8608.
  • Change from 2023 School Tax Rate: -0.0434.
  • Percentage Change from 2023 School Tax Rate: -4.79%.
  • The average home assessed at $396,255 will pay $3,411 in 2024.
  • For the fifth year in a row, the school tax rate for Millstone residents has gone down.

The public hearing on the budget will be held on April 29. If any legislation is passed that would affect next year’s budget, that information will be shared at the public hearing. If not, the exact cuts to balance the budget will be shared at the public hearing. For more information visit the district website at www.htps.us.

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