Vernon school budget up by 3 percent, even with banked money

Vernon. District loses millions in state aid. The owner of the average township home will see an annual increase of about $121 in 2021-22 budget.

| 18 Mar 2021 | 05:10

Taxpayers in the Vernon Township School District could face a 3.03 percent increase in the district tax levy, even if the district uses the last of its banked cap to balance the 2021-22 budget.

The district’s new business administrator, Theresa Linskey, recommended at last Thursday’s workshop that the school board add its $441,741 banked cap to the 2 percent tax levy.

“This is the last year we can use this,” she said.

The tax levy would mean the average township home of about $206,000 will see an annual increase of about $121.

Linskey said the district lost $2.4 million in state aid for 2020-21 as the state continues to whittle down the district’s share.

By the time the state aid cuts are done, the district is projected to lose about $2.2 million, she said.

“Coming in here new, I think you’ve done a great job managing that loss,” Linskey said. “An excellent job, actually.”

The district had $2.9 million left over from the last budget to apply to 2021-22. Not as much money was spent in 2000-21 as expected because of the school closures that began in March.

“We don’t want the public to think we’re overbudgeting,” said board of education president Justin Annunziata. “There were monies that weren’t spent last year because the buildings were closed.”

State aid is expected to drop by another $1.5 million in 2022-23. Linskey said the district would need more than $2 million from this year’s budget to address the shortfall.

“It’s not a matter of overtaxing,” Linskey said. “It’s a matter of getting enough revenue for the budget in future years.”

Superintendent Karen D’Avino said the money the district saved from the schools being closed is not typical.

Annunziata said the district must take a “two-sided approach” to the budget going forward, looking at ways to raise revenues and cut spending because the district can’t continue to rely on unspent funds from previous budgets.

“The fact that we saved funds last year in this year is buying us time to ease into the state aid cuts a little slower,” he said.

“We don’t want the public to think we’re overbudgeting. There were monies that weren’t spent last year because the buildings were closed.” Justin Annunziata, school board president