The Freehold Borough Board of Education (BOE) will have to decide between increasing classroom size or increasing taxes after hearing a presentation on the preliminary 2013-2014 school year budget.
At Monday night’s BOE meeting, Jim Strimple, interim business administrator for the school district, walked the board through the projected appropriations and revenues for the 2013-2014 school year. The projected numbers did not include state aid numbers. Those numbers will be available later in February.
“The governor is not giving his budget address until Tuesday, Feb. 26,” said Strimple. “Two days later we will find out what our state aid will be in 2013-2014.”
According to Strimple, the projected revenues for borough schools are $19,075,426, while the projected appropriations are $19,641,191, resulting in a possible shortfall of $565,765.
“We are out of balance,” said Strimple. “Our base budget is larger than our estimated projected revenues by $565,765. That’s not good. If this board chooses to live within its two-percent cap we are going to have to cut $565,765 out of the budget right now. Or, we have to find some other form of revenue and I don’t know where you are going to find that.”
The next slide in Strimple’s presentation described items that were not included in the budget. These items staff requested but that are not definitely coming to the district. These items include a multiple disabilities teacher, resource room teacher, fourth grade teacher, health benefits, and renovations for additional classroom space, to name a few. Those items, in addition to the already projected appropriations that were included in the budget make Freehold Borough Schools $1,121,265 over their cap.
Strimple further 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.
“Some people think there is a cap on your budget, actually, there is no cap on the budget. You can grow the budget by 10, 15, 20-percent if you have revenues. The cap is on your tax levy of the local residents,” explained Strimple.
After the presentation, Strimple asked the board for some guidance regarding the preliminary budget and growth in tax levy.
“We are stuck between a rock and a hard place obviously,” said BOE Vice President Dr. Michael Licahrdi.
The BOE ended the meeting with the decision to talk again after state aid numbers come out and asked Strimple to look at what an increase in the budget cap would mean for residents.
“We need participation from the public to find out if they would rather have 40 kids in a classroom or have taxes go up,” said BOE member Jim Keelan.
The BOE is scheduled to meet again on Monday, Feb. 25 to further look at the 2013-2014 budget. The public’s input is welcomed at this meeting. Currently, the BOE is scheduled to adopt the tentative budget at a special BOE meeting on Monday, March 4.