$130M Monroe education budget gets initial OK

Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | Mar 30, 2018 | MonroeNow

The Monroe Board of Education proposed its preliminary budget this week that would raise spending by more than $5 million, largely being fueled by the needs linked to dealing with an increase in student enrollment, the trustee president said.

In total, the preliminary budget comes in at $130.6 million. Taxes, including prior public approved bond initiatives, would increase 3.73 percent for a total of $112.3 million. The average assessed impact for a property owner was not available.

“I believe that the majority of the budget deals with the growth of the student population,” Trustee president Kathy Kolupanowich said. “We expect 452 new students next year.”

Those additional students, she said, means the district will need to provide more busing, textbooks, teachers and other necessities to accommodate for the increased growth. Between instructional services and transportation, the district will spend approximately $60 million, according to the preliminary budget.

District officials have been lobbying lawmakers for more state aid for Monroe’s schools primarily because of the increasing enrollment, but also being a community with a large senior population living on a fixed income. They want limiting items such as the growth cap removed, which restricts how much additional funding a district can receive from the state. Monroe believes that if that restriction, along with others, were removed it would add an additional $5-$6 million in state aid.

READ: Mayor writes letter to governor; Monroe gets 10-percent increase in state aid

Monroe is projected to receive $3.6 million in state aid for Fiscal Year 2019, approximately $350,000 more than the current spending plan. If Governor Murphy is able to maintain his pledge to fully fund education based on the 2008 School Funding Reform Act, by 2022 Monroe will an additional $1.4 million.

District Superintendent Michael Kozak said he was comfortable with the budget, he would have liked to see Monroe get additional funding from the state, especially since New Jersey may spend an extra $280 million on education, for a total of $14.9 billion.

The spending plan now heads to the Middlesex County Superintendent of Schools and for review before a public hearing date is finalized.