Freehold Borough residents and organizations gathered in the Park Avenue Elementary Complex cafeteria Monday night, to see how the Board of Education (BOE) was going to proceed with the 2013-2014 school budget.
Following the Feb. 11 preliminary budget presentation, Jim Strimple, Freehold Borough Schools interim business administrator, came back to the BOE on Monday, Feb. 25 with additional information to consider.
“When we had our last meeting, the board directed the administration to look at two budget scenarios. First, if there were a four-percent increase in tax levy, what would the ramifications be? And if there was an eight-percent increase in the tax levy, what ramifications or implications would that have on the educational programs,” said Strimple.
At the Feb. 11 presentation, Strimple explained that there is a two-percent cap limit placed on the growth in the local tax levy by the government, but there is no cap on the budget if there is enough revenue.
According to Strimple’s presentation, before any state aid, a four-percent increase in the tax levy would force the district to cut three teachers, cut clerical, cut athletic program, cut activities program, reduce rent at Freehold Township schools, reduce benefits, breakage retirement and reduce textbooks, in order to balance the budget.
An eight-percent increase, without any state aid, would force the district to reduce rent at Freehold Township schools, and breakage retirement for two in order to balance the budget.
Strimple’s presentation continued with what a four-percent increase and eight-percent increase in the tax levy would give the district with $400,000 in state aid; the amount the Freehold Borough School District received last year.
After hearing all of the possible scenarios, the board was asked to give Strimple some more guidance on how to proceed.
“We are accountable for the tax payers and we are accountable for the kids in this town,” said Annette Jordan, Freehold Borough BOE President. “As an elected person on this board of education we need to stand up here and say ‘okay I’m in at four, I’m not in at eight,’ but we need to take a stand and say ‘this is what we are going to do’. Then we have to go out to public and justify why this is what we have to do.”
After some talk, the board agreed to have Strimple go forward with a draft that follows the four-percent tax levy increase, expecting state aid figures to be at $400,000.
“If we get $400,000 with a four-percent tax levy increase, it does not get you the additional fourth grade teacher at Park Avenue, we are not getting the resource room teacher at the Learning Center, your not getting the early childhood tools of the month in kindergarten, and your not getting anything else with enhancing the early childhood program,” explained Elizabeth O’Connell, Freehold Borough Superintendent of Schools.
According to Strimple, the Freehold Borough BOE is supposed to find out on Thursday, Feb. 28 what state aid the district will receive. On Monday, March 4, the BOE will meet again with the state aid numbers and will have the obligation of adopting the 2013-2014 budget. If approved by necessary boards, the Executive County Superintendent will adopt the budget by the end of March.