The Vernon Township school board has sent the preliminary 2021-22 budget to the county superintendent of schools for review.
The budget passed on March 18 by a vote of 8-1, with Theresa Scura Coughlin abstaining. She said she didn’t know the budget well enough to cast a vote.
The district lost about $2.1 million in state aid. The district’s new business administrator, Theresa Linskey, on March 11 recommended using all of the $441,741 available in the district’s banked cap, in addition to a tax levy increase of 2 percent, to fund the budget.
The final levy came in at 3.03 percent. The banked cap is now depleted.
“That comes from a savings in past years when we were down around zero,” Linskey said of the banked cap. “We’re allowed to use it one more time.”
The total tax levy is about $44.3 million. If the district had raised taxes by 2 percent every year since 2012-13, the tax levy would be at about $49.6 million.
The average home in Vernon Township, assessed at $206,000, will see a tax increase of $121.
“We are cut to the bones in many areas,” Superintendent Karen D’Avino said. “I am starting to get very concerned about the educational value and what we’re providing for our students. Vernon has long since had the reputation of being stellar district. We want to be able to provide as many of these things for our children and preserve that for years to come.”
The overall budget has increased 1.28 percent since 2020-21. More than half of the budget goes toward instruction, which includes salaries, while nearly 20 percent goes to benefits.
Assistant Superintendent Charles McKay said if the district went below a 2 percent increase, the district would have to cut teachers, which could blow up class sizes.
The district also had a surplus from 2019-20 of about $2.9 million because of last year’s school closure. The school board will hold a public hearing on the budget on April 29, with adoption expected on May 19.
“We can’t play one year at a time,” said school board member Joe Sweeney. “We have to look ahead.”
“We can’t play one year at a time. We have to look ahead.” Joe Sweeney