VTSD school board OKs budget

Vernon. The Vernon Township School District Board of Education passed its 2019-20 budget on Wednesday, May 1, by a 7-1 vote. The $66.48 million spending plan carries a 10.05 percent tax levy hike.

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The Vernon Township School District Board of Education on Wednesday, May 1, passed the 2019-20 budget calling for a 10.05 percent increase in the tax levy.

The roll-call vote passed 7-1 with board member Kelly Mitchell casting the only vote against it.

School board president Brad Sparta was absent due to mandatory work training.

The Board of Education is able to exceed the 2 percent New Jersey tax cap by using their unused cap space from the previous three school year.

They will use $3.3 million against the 2019-20 budget, leaving only $114,000 to remain for future budgets.

“While I understand the reasoning for using banked cap I don’t agree with it,” Sparta said in a statement read by Business Administrator Steve Kepnes. “Past boards have worked hard to keep taxes stable and I feel that by using banked cap, we are reversing those years of fiscal responsibility.”

Kelly said she believed the district could do more to control spending.

“I think the spending we can curb more. I know it’s been said I go into the weeds a little too much, but I’m willing to sit here tonight and capture more savings.”

The total tax levy will be $42.06 million and the $66.48 million is also a slight decrease from the 2018-19 budget.

According to Kepnes, the average Vernon Township home of $215,000 will pay $198 more in school taxes than last year.

Board of education member Mark Cilli said the budget was “directionally correct” and that the levy had to be increased as the district lost nearly $1 million in state aid this year and is projected to lose more over the next 6 years until aid is down to about $14 million.

He disputed the claim that the Vernon school district is being punished for being fiscally responsible for the last number of years.

“I’m happy we haven’t raised taxes over the years, but we didn’t have a plan to rein that budget in to what we’re actually entitled to,” he said. “Now we’re going to have to rein it in at a vastly accelerated rate. This is going to take a financial discipline; we haven’t had for some time.”

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