The Vernon Township school board on March 24 approved its preliminary 2022-23 budget, and was set to send it by Monday to the Sussex County Executive Superintendent of Schools.
The preliminary budget passed by an 8-0 vote after school board member John Kraus was assured that approving the preliminary budget didn’t commit him to approving the final budget. School board member Martin O’Donnell was absent.
By the numbers
● The district’s total proposed budget is $68.4 million, a 2.9 percent increase over 2021-22.
● It calls for a $44.7 million tax levy, a 2.1 increase over the 2021-22 levy.
● The district was able to go to 2.1 percent, above the 2 percent cap, because it used $44,144 of its banked cap. Interim business administrator Carolyn Joseph said the district would have lost the banked cap if it wasn’t used.
● The budget calls for a increase of $101.95 increase over last year for the average township home, which is assessed at $237,500.
● The district also saw a $1.7 million reduction in state aid. Joseph said the reductions are supposed to end after the 2025-26 school year. “It’s supposed to end there,” she said, adding that it remains to be seen.
The district was able to offset this year’s state aid reduction after it received stabilization aid of $4.07 million. Assistant Superintendent Charles McKay said the stabilization aid must be used for student support, growth, and achievement.
The school board also approved the following appointments:
● Hollyce Schoepp as supervisor of STEM for $123,000 annually, and with $2,000 in longevity pay.
● Cristofer Slotoroff as supervisor of Arts and Humanities at a prorated annual salary of $100,000 for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year. His salary will remain at $100,000 annually for 2022-23.
Both positions are funded by the stabilization aid.
Transportation represents one of the largest increases in the budget, with costs projected to be about 26 percent higher than this year.
Joseph said the increases come from bus maintenance, the high price of gas, and liability insurance. There’s also the ongoing bus driver shortage while the district has additional routes to cover.
Township resident Bill Higgins called the 2.1 percent tax rate “unconscionable.”
“At the very least, with all the money being discussed, there’s no reason to increase taxes,” he said. “You’ll be hurting yourself because you don’t have any banked cap.”