Friday, March 17, 2017


The Board of Education this week tweaked its 2017-2018 budget proposal so that it will include a slightly higher tax increase, but save a few staff positions.

Instead of a proposed 3.28% tax increase, the latest version has a 3.56% tax hike. That means the average Maplewood home assessed at $396,992, and currently paying $8,474 in school district taxes, will see a $249 increase to $8,723.

"Year over year revenue is not keeping up with the growth in district expenses," Business Administrator Paul Roth said this week. 

The district issued its own budget message on Thursday, which does not include the per-home average tax hike amount. See it HERE.

We reported last week that the board had initially planned for a budget with $128.1 million in revenue and $130.4 million in expenditures, which included the addition of 11 employees. Those included six middle school teachers (three at each middle school), one elementary school teacher, one special services teacher, one high school assistant principal, one custodial supervisor, one part-time nurse and a part-time safety and security director.

Superintendent John Ramos
That indicated a $2.3 million deficit if the district had stuck with the state-limited 2% tax increase cap.

But utilizing what is known as "banked cap," the board had planned on a higher tax increase, up to 3.28%. That "banked cap" is an additional increase allowed when the district does not raise taxes by 2% in a prior year. 

The board also planned to cut between eight and 14 employees, with up to seven teachers - three world languages (affecting fourth and fifth graders and Latin classes at CHS), two physical education, and one each in math and science.

And another $1.7 million would have been saved through cutbacks in other staff, as well as books, sabbaticals and health care spending, according to Superintendent John Ramos.

But at a budget forum on Monday, the district revealed that it had found an additional amount of "banked cap" that will allow it to increase taxes even more, by 3.56%, to raise $1.79 million above the capped amount. 

That will allow the district to restore some student activity funds and summer school tuition that would have been cut. In addition, two more math teachers and an English/Language Arts teacher at Columbia High School have been added. But the other planned cuts would remain.

"The choices are very difficult," Ramos said.

The board plans to adopt the budget at a special meeting on Saturday, March 18, at 9:30 a.m. at Montrose School, 356 Clark St., South Orange. Since the adopted preliminary budget is due on Monday, the meeting must be held before then. 

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