Howell BOE Budget: Priorities, Accomplishments, Concerns

The Howell BOE and audience received a presentation from Board Administrator Ronald Sanasac on the 2018-2019 proposed budget at its most recent meeting. (Photo by Kimberly Bosco)

HOWELL – The Howell Township Board of Education discussed the proposed 2018-2019 school year budget recently. Board administrator Ronald Sanasac expressed pride over the priorities and accomplishments of the district thus far, but also showed concern for impending legislation regarding state funding during his budget presentation.

The deadline for the board to submit the proposed budget was May 7, but Sanasac remarked at the May 2 meeting, “unfortunately we may have some unknowns at that point,” due to state aid funding legislation deadlines out of their control.

Sanasac began the budget presentation by touching on some of the district’s priorities in developing the budget, such as continually enhancing student achievement. “Everything we do goes to that,” he said. “We are all in the same game together and it’s about student achievement.”

Another priority is reducing and controlling operational and discretionary costs, according to Sanasac. “Every penny we can save enhances what we can put into the classroom,” he added.

Sanasac also noted that enhancing revenue is always a priority, stating “we’re constantly looking at more ways to do shared services, or to reduce cost,” as well as to minimize the impact on taxes.

He also provided a brief overview of the accomplishments that this budget will help the district to achieve in the coming school year.

“This budget provides the resources to get the silver certification,” for Future Ready Schools, said Sanasac. It also works on meeting curricular demands, upgrading technology, maintaining facilities, tax stability, and updating fleets.

“We do have eight vehicles aging out and through the operations committee and the finance committee, we are planning to make sure that that fleet stays at an adequate level for our students and their safe transport,” he explained.

The budget also works towards expanding personal learning by addressing every child’s needs, and enhancing digital utilization.

The Numbers

“There is a regulation in the state of where our administrative costs could be. Based on our statistics, we could be spending $2,091 [per student] and be below the state regulation,” said Sanasac. “We only spend $1,896 [per student]…we do more with less.”

Howell Township School District is approximately $1,121,335 below the state mandated cap of $12,046,250 in total administrative costs.

The total general fund budget is listed as $117,224,924. State and federal programs, $1,975,948 and debt service, $4,634,381.

The budget will be funded primarily by taxation; the board proposed general fund levy is $73,908,669. Other sources of revenue include:

  • State aid: unknown
  • Miscellaneous revenue: $2,175,391
  • Federal aid: $1,850,618

The tax rate will be decreasing from 1.164 cents per $100 assessed valuation in 2017 to 1.132 cents per $100 assessed valuation in 2018.

Noting that the tax levy is going up $451,000 up from last year, Sanasac said that the levy will see a .58 percent increase. “But that’s based on the current state aid notice,” the district received from Gov. Phil Murphy following his budget address, he added. This could change.

State Aid Concerns

The board still harbors concerns over state legislation that could alter the proposed budget and associated tax levy.

“We don’t have a clear direction on legislative funding. It’s still an open item and they [the NJDOE] are still discussing it,” said Sanasac.

“Trenton is negotiating…statutorily we have to complete the [budget] process…but, based on all these things, there is a chance that it may have to change.”

Following Governor Murphy’s budget address, a notice of state aid is issued which denotes how much state aid a district could be getting. This amount could change, causing the amount to go up or down, by the time legislation is voted on.

Sanasac noted that the board was continuing in budget preparations assuming that the figures they have now will remain as they are, for the purpose of meeting the May 7 deadline.

The deadline for NJ to finalize state aid legislation is June 30.