District budget OK’d in Monroe; avg. tax hike is $52.44 based on assessed value

Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | Apr 27, 2018 | MonroeNow

Monroe taxpayers will pay an additional $52.44 to help cover cost in the Board of Education’s 2018-2019 budget, which starts July 1.

The Board of Education approved the $130.6 million spending plan at its meeting on April 25. Education officials maintain the biggest driver for the 3.37 percent tax levy hike is the continued enrollment increases the district is experiencing. The tax levy for the new budget is $112.3 million. According to the district’s projections for the 2018-2019 academic year, an estimated 500 additional students will attend district schools.

In addition to those students, because of the growing enrollment at the middle school, the board’s budget includes approximately $900,000 to lease 10 specially-designed classroom trailers to address overcrowding. The district also is considering replacing the boiler and HVAC system at Brookdale Elementary School, which would approximately cost $890,000 and spend an estimated $550,000 to replace the caged turf field at the high school and middle school, among other capital investments.

“We have facility needs that need to be handled and we had staffing issues to address with the growing enrollment,” said Superintendent Michael Kozak.

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

The district, has also joined with other public school systems across New Jersey to seek more state aid funding. Local education officials have said repeatedly that they do not believe the school district receives its fair share of funding, especially given its increasing enrollment. The district is slated to receive $3.6 million in aid this year in Governor Murphy’s first proposed budget.

READ: Mayor writes to gov. seeking extra funding

To make the point the district needs additional state funding, both education and municipal officials have lobbied state lawmakers.

In a letter to Governor Murphy from Mayor Gerald Tamburro, dated March 20, the mayor writes: “Unfortunately, the proposed [state] budget only offers Monroe $244,000 more in [state aid] funding and more importantly gives even ‘overfunded’ communities additional money. How is this fair funding?”

Additionally, the mayor asked the governor to take steps to remove the growth cap limit, which restricts the year-over-year state funding increase a district can receive. Monroe officials believe that based on the district’s actual needs the system should receive more funding. In his letter, the mayor pegged that total extra amount at $5-$6 million by 2022 versus the $1.3 million in additional aid the district will receive by 2022, a claim supported by an analysis by the district.

READ: Fair-funding supporters rally in Trenton

Earlier this week, Kozak joined other education leaders, state officials and community members at a rally in Trenton before the Assembly Budget Committee meeting to state their case for additional funding.

During that rally, Kozak said, “We want people to come and stay in New Jersey. “We’re trying to tell the students and families this is the place to be, but they are being taxed out of their homes, they’re being taxed out of their residences. So we are asking, please we need to address this issue now and we cannot wait any longer.”