Budget close to the bone

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:22

    No complaints as Hardyston’s budget debuts in public, By Jennifer Knocha Hardyston Township public schools got that rarest of gifts, that of no arguments, during a public hearing on the proposed 2009-2010 school budget. The budget was subject to some severe cutting by the district. The $10,484,836 spending plan shows an increase of 3.1 percent or a little over $300,000 from the previous year and if approved, would lead to a tax rate increase from 1.206 percent to 1.225 percent. That equates to a jump of 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value: A home valued at $125,000 would seen a tax increase of $22.50 a year. The average assessed value is $159,976. The good news, however, is that according to acting CSA/superintendent Anthony Norod, no programs will be cut, even though the budget is very tight. Most of the increases are in the areas of salary and insurance, which are unavoidable, according to Board President Jerry Lanzalotto. “Seventy-five percent of our expenditures, all of the salaries and the medical insurance, have had an average increase of over 4 percent,” he said. “The other 25 percent of the budget is where we had to reduce considerably to get below our cap. I don’t think it’s a great budget, but it is reasonable.” State aid static As with many other school districts, Hardyston’s state aid was kept flat. To make things more complicated, the township’s ratables declined severely from 2008 to 2009, leaving the district with less room to grow. Add in the slight expected growth in enrollment — with an increase in charter school students and possible additional special education students. It could have been worse, said Lanzalotto, but the budget has been kept under control. “Look at some of the other districts in the county, who are facing dramatic increases in tax rates. I think this is a good budget. I’m very proud of how Mr. Norod and his staff have worked to make it the best budget possible.” In fact, according to the budget presentation on April 6, Hardyston Township has one of the lowest per-pupil costs in the county — $11,479 per pupil. Other districts spend as much as $15,551 per student. “You’re running a budget that’s saving the district about $3 million in comparison to some other districts,” said resident Robert Walker at the meeting. A number of capital projects have been retained in the budget. These include: replacement of the elementary school gym divider with roll-down curtain, relocation and upgrade of the elementary school alarm system replacement of the elementary school gym window curtains. All of these items are over 30 years old, according to Norod and are desperately in need of replacement.