$1M in extra state aid will go to tax relief: Monroe educational officials

BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | MonroeNow | Jul 30, 2018

MONROE – The Monroe Board of Education unanimously agreed to use the majority of an increase in new state aid as tax relief to residents at the July 18 meeting.

Trustees approved using $1 million of the approximate $1.65 million in additional education aid it received as direct tax relief. As a result, a home assessed at the $315,299 township average will see the school tax bill decrease from $52.44 to $31.73 for the 2018-2019 district budget.

“With the board’s use of $1 million as tax relief, the 2018-2019 school tax [levy] increase is a 1 penny increase,” said Monroe Township School District Business Administrator Michael C. Gorski, who is also the board secretary, on Monday. “This is extremely favorable and below the mean.”

Earlier this year, the district was informed that it would receive an additional $344,629 in state education aid over the 2017-2018 budget. But after new legislation and the state budget was adopted, Monroe learned on July 13 that it would receive an extra $1.65 million on top of the $344,629, totaling approximately $2 million more for 2018-2019. With the new figures, Monroe will receive a total of more than $5.5 million in state aid for its current school budget, which began on July 1.

The remaining $656,602 of the new state aid will go to the capital reserve account, which Gorski said had $89,700 remaining.

“The reserve account has a very low balance for a district of this size,” he said. “In my opinion it is a responsible measure to use some of this money to replenish the capital reserve account.”

The capital reserve account funds long-range projects such as roof and boiler replacements. It can also help to lower the cost of a bond referendum since the district would have more cash available.

“I think it’s a good thing that we are giving the $1 million back to tax relief,” said trustee Ken Chiarella at the meeting. “But it’s very important for us to recharge our [capital] account. We’ve done a lot of projects in the past, as Gorski stated, out of that [capital] account. If we have an emergency or something where we need to act on it we have the ability and make changes without having to go out for a bond or something like that.”

The district and its supporters have been lobbying state lawmakers for years for additional aid as part of a larger movement to redistribute how much money suburban districts get in comparison to larger urban areas that many contend are over-funded.

But, trustees agreed that just because they received this extra funding, the fight to get the district’s fair share is not over.

“Getting $2 million, while it sounds like we’re getting a 60-percent increase, is really just a drop in the bucket … and I’m certainly grateful for it but I think we have to keep in mind it’s really not our fair share yet,” trustee Michele Arminio said at the meeting. “I don’t want the public to be deceived that we got a high increase, we got an increase based on a ridiculously low amount we have been receiving. We still need to keep fighting. Two-million dollars on a $130 million budget is barely a relief to taxpayers.”