MANCHESTER – The Board of Education approved a budget that includes an increase to the tax rate, and expands class offerings and security.
The total budget will be $58,322,964, an increase of $728,101 from the current year’s $57,594,863. The amount raised in taxation will be $48,049,159, an increase of $1,285,007 from the current year’s $46,764,152.
The school tax rate would be $1.44 per $100 of assessed valuation, an increase of 2.2 cents.
For an average home, valued at $161,100, the average school tax would be $2,306.93, an increase of $58 a year.
Business administrator Craig Lorentzen said that the challenge in crafting a budget is keeping it within the levy cap, when costs are rising.
The tax levy cap of 2 percent is a state mandate. It means that districts can’t increase the tax levy more than 2 percent. There are some exceptions, but generally speaking, budgets have to be kept within those limits.
“Salaries, healthcare, special education costs (tuition and transportation), pension costs and liability insurance drive our budget,” he said. “These five categories represent almost 80 percent of our entire operating budget. With a tax levy cap of 2 percent, and all of these costs rising well above 2 percent, you are routinely over the levy cap at the start of the budget process. The challenge is getting to cap while trying to maintain staff and programs, maintaining our facilities, continuing to improve school security and providing resources so that our students are given every opportunity to be successful.”
All programs and activities will be continued next year, he said. Staff will be reduced by five teachers and a secretary, due to attrition.
Other improvements include new technology, professional development, and textbooks for Spanish Honors, Spanish II, AP Human Geography and Chemistry.
The following new courses will be added at the high school: a STEM program, AP Human Geography, Structured Learning Experience, Algebra I workshop, Reading and Writing Lab and French IV Honors.
“We work hard throughout the budget process to be responsible to the taxpayers while providing a safe environment in our schools and a quality education for our students,” Superintendent David Trethaway said in a press release.
The budget includes an increase in state aid this year, but the district is not counting on it, he said. There is a “Plan B” in case the number changes.
State aid is expected to be $5,739,048, an increase of $288,649 from the current year’s $5,450,389. However, it’s important to note that the current year saw a dip in state aid from the 2016-2017 year, which was $5,561,621. The state reconfigured how it doled out aid, and districts with declining enrollment, such as Manchester, lost aid.
Security upgrades were made a priority. Cameras will be upgraded. Ballistic film will be placed on windows and doors. There will also be expanded ways to notify staff and students in case of an emergency. Manchester police officers have key fobs, donated by the security company, that will allow them access to the buildings in case of a lockdown, Trethaway said.
Underground fuel tanks at the transportation yard need to be replaced, which is estimated to cost approximately $456,000. A shared service agreement with another district or similar entity might shoulder some of that cost, Lorentzen said.
He said that the PTA, the Manchester Township Educational Foundation, Donors Choose and school-based fundraisers provide many ‘extras’ that are not possible in the regular budget. “Their support means so much to the district,” Lorentzen said.