BOE presents preliminary $74.6M school budget

BY PATRICIA KELLER
WEST MILFORD — Taxes could increase by 6-cents per $100 of assessed valuation if the district's preliminary $74.6 million budget is approved without any cuts.
The spending plan, if adopted following a public hearing on April 30, would mean a tax increase of about $143 for the owner of a home assessed at $247,000, according to the district.
The board tentatively approved the 2019/2020 proposed budget during its Tuesday night meeting, which includes cuts of one administrator and 10 other staff positions, continued and increased use of shared services.
The plan has an overall increase of 2.9% percent in school taxes; for which the average cost on the median assessed home ($247,000) will be $143.34 per year, or $12 per month; averaging approximately 6-cents per $100 assessed value, according to the district.
In the preliminary budget presentation Tuesday, key points mentioned included: an unprecedented $950,066 cut in State Aid, Federal Aid and other revenues in decline; continued increase in costs/expenses for salaries, health benefits, special education costs, building maintenance, capital projects, etc.; and very limited ability for the district to fund reserve accounts such as capital reserve and maintenance reserve, etc.; thus, increasing pressure on local taxes.
By the numbers
The 2019-2020 Preliminary Budget information includes the following:
General Fund: $ 56,611,164
Special Revenue: $ 1,149,663
Debt Service: $ 270,260
TOTAL BUDGET: $ 74,583,831
According to the Preliminary Budget Presentation, the total budget increases by $1,808,679, or 2.49 percent change, with an increase in the tax levy of $1,595,456 or 2.9 percent.
It was stated that West Milford’s Administrative costs are $1,949 per pupil- lower than the Regional Limit per pupil, which is $2,302.
The preliminary budget includes continuing programs for students in Readers/writers workshop, Phonics Training, Word Work; A Science Olympiad for grades 5-6, an Elementary Robotics program, Physics for All, Onteractive IO Advanced Placement Practice, Algebra 1 for 7th Grade, addition of Math Facts Digital Flash cards for improving and evaluating basic math skills for grades K-3.
Capital projects include Paving the Transportation Lot and Macopin Lot, Implementing Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP) and replacement of Macopin Gym Floor.
The trustees said they will continue to work on the budget with administrators and in committees, seeking alternatives and cost savings to offset the nearly $1 million cuts in state aid this year.
A preliminary budget is the starting point and necessary to send to the Executive County Superintendent for Approval by March 20 deadline.
The budget can be adjusted and reduced from there until the final budget hearing on April 30.
More information
A copy of the preliminary budget power point presentation will be available on the school district website at wmtps.org; click on “Board,” then “Budgets & Audits,” then click on the link for “Preliminary Budget Presentation 2019-2020.”
Interested parties may also view a video recording of the March 12 school board meeting and Preliminary Budget Presentation via livestream link on the district’s website.
The public budget hearing will be held on April 30, at the school board Meeting.
All BOE meetings are held on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. in the Westbrook School Media Center, unless otherwise noted.
See related story on page 11.