High Point spending goes down, tax levy goes up

Wantage. The High Point Regional High School Board of Education cut its budget by more than $900,000, but a state aid cut forces a 2 percent tax levy hike.

| 03 May 2022 | 09:32

    The High Point Regional High School Board of Education is reducing spending, but taxes are still going up.

    The school board unanimously approved a $23,406,381 budget that comes with a tax levy of $17,242,428, a 2 percent increase over the 2021-22 tax levy. The total budget is $908,720 less than the 2021-22 budget.

    The disconnect comes from a change in the state aid formula that is seeing High Point take a $584,563 reduction, leaving the district to make up the distance at the local level. Overall, the district is in the sixth year of state aid reductions.

    Superintendent Scott Ripley said the state aid decrease takes up most of the 2 percent tax levy increase.

    “Hopefully, you’re getting a sense of what the reality is,” Ripley said. “There is nothing we can do about it. We have two more years of state reductions.”

    So far, the district has lost a total of $3.1 million in state aid and Ripley said he hopes the district will not reach $5 million in cuts. He called it a redistribution of wealth.

    “What was formerly $5 million that was sent to High Point now is $1.9,” Ripley said. “So, the state redistributed $3.1 million elsewhere.”

    More than 50 percent of the budget is taken up by salaries and benefits make up another 16 percent. The next largest piece is transportation, which takes up 10 percent of the budget.

    Ripley recalled discussion about 10 or so years ago when district officials discussed getting rid of courtesy bussing, which is bussing for students who live within two miles of the school. For him, that’s a non-starter.

    “There is not one person who wants their kids walking these streets for two miles,” Ripley said. “So, this idea that courtesy bussing is a luxury is great if you live somewhere else. But where you live in High Point, transportation is an absolute non-discretionary cost.”

    Wantage Township carries most of the tax burden with its residents paying 47.9 percent of the district’s taxes, which is down from 48.7 from last year as 22 less students will hail from the township. Frankford added five to cover 29.3 percent of the tax share. Lafayette contributes 12.7 percent. Sussex Borough pays a 5.1 percent share of the school’s taxes and 4.9 comes from Branchville.

    Board of Education member Richard Klein, who sought election after the district imposed a 14 percent increase on taxes said Ripley’s presentation presented everything necessary.

    “As we’ve seen, the budget is decreasing,” Klein said. “This is a pretty good presentation of where the money is going away. It’s a difficult situation.: