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School District Looking to Keep Tax Levy Increase at 2 Percent

School District Business Administrator Cheryl Schneider gave a quick overview of the preliminary 2012-13 budget.

South Orange-Maplewood School District staff are working to present the Board of Education with a 2012-2013 budget that is at or near the 2% state-mandated cap — despite the fact that the district has banked cap and possible exeptions that it could use to ask for a higher tax levy.

At the Jan. 18 Board of Education meeting, Business Administrator and Board Secretary Cheryl Schneider gave an update on the 2012-13 budget process currently underway. 

Schneider outlined some areas where the district was seeing some cost savings.

For health benefits, the district has started collecting 1.5% of all salaries as per the latest New Jersey reform laws.  The new are expected to save the district $500,000.

Schneider says that the South Orange-Maplewood district’s maintenance expenses are a little higher than most other districts. However some are expected to lower those costs.  As for custodial services, the outsourcing of those has been saving the district 24% then when they had salaried employees.

Compared to other districts, Schneider said that South Orange-Maplewood’s cost per student is higher than the average at $14,169. The maintenance and classroom instruction costs are higher than average as well, however administration costs are on par with other districts.

Schneider said that the assumptions are that state aid will remain constant for the upcoming budget year. She said that, therefore, the bulk of the funding will come from taxpayer dollars and the 2% cap will not be exceeded, even though the district has banked cap and exceptions it could use.

For 2012-13, the district will be looking towards some new initiatives such as Middle School Transformation (the ), the Columbia High School Strategic Plan and increased support towards struggling students. Some of these initiatives will be paid for with redirected funds from health care contributions, said Schneider, an expansion in technology and by enacting , reviewing Special Education.

The tax impact of the 2012-13 budget is estimated to be 2% before adding in the estimated debt service of $3,587,140. Following the addition of the debt service, the estimated tax impact is 2.03%.

Superintendent Brian Osborne made sure to remind residents that these are just preliminary numbers.

“It’s very very early, things are just coming into focus,” said Osborne. “We are in the process of reconciling previous fiscal years, examining various reports of this year and really doing featured line by line of this budget review.”

The next step in the budget process will be a Finance and Technology Committee meeting on Feb. 2.

Stephanie Kennedy January 26, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Real estate taxes in South Orange are among the highest in the nation making it tough for those of us who are now on a fixed income. Assembly Speaker Susan Oliver emphasizes the "unfair balance" in school funding drives up property taxes at the state level.

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