Second BOE Budget Meeting Has School Tax Increase Under $150

The second of two budget presentations for the 2016-17 school year held on March 14th at the Roselle Park Middle School auditorium has an increase of $144.30 for a household assessed at the new assessment value of $253,000.

The presentation for the coming school year budget of close to $34 million had an audience of eight residents in attendance and was once again given by the Roselle Park School District Business Administrator Sue Guercio. Out of the $33,904,405 allotted to educate Roselle Park School District (RPSD) children, $21,055,914 – a little over 62% – is to be collected by property taxes. Although the entire budget itself only went up by 1.5%, the portion to be paid by property taxes increased by 2.9% from last year. The tax levy cap, or the amount that can be raised from property taxes, is a 2% maximum. There are some exemptions that are allowed under the law that a school district can include before calculating the 2% tax cap. This year, RPSD was only allowed an enrollment adjustment amount of $188,385. The 2015-16 tax levy was $20,454,688 and with the enrollment adjustment, the amount to be raised by taxes was $601,246. This increase is much less than the tax levy portions for 2015-16 ($1,270,817) and 2014-15 ($1,328,578).

Two-thirds (2/3) of all expenditures budgeted were for salaries and health/dental insurance. Tuition for students who go out of district was the third largest expense, making up 5.2%. The remaining 16 line items – ranging from supplies to the paying off a bond for expansion of facilities over a decade ago to special education to rent to legal costs – was budgeted at $6,174,398 or 18% of costs for the coming school year.

It should be noted that although the actual amount spent for the 2015-16 school year was $505,837, the amount budgeted for transportation was actually $459,500

Salaries were just agreed to in the fall of last year for a three-year contract with teachers and other staff. The reason given for the decrease in health insurance was due to negotiations with the teachers and staff as part of that same three-year contract. The largest percentage decrease at 8% was due to transportation costs. The amount budgeted for the next school year is $40,000 less than spent for the current school year. It should be noted that although the actual amount spent for the 2015-16 school year was $505,837, the amount budgeted for transportation was actually $459,500. Comparing apples-to-apples reveals that this year will be a $6,000 increase over the previous school year’s budgeted amount – not a decrease.

Insurance (Health / Dental)
FICA, PERS, Medical, Unemployment
Tuition (Out-Of-District - Special Education)
Tuition (Out-Of-District - Regular Education)
Utilities (Water, Electricity, etc.)
Phone & Internet
Special Education (other than salaries)
Related Special Services (OT, PT, etc.)
Contracted Maintenance Services
Insurance (Liability, Auto, etc.)
Debt Services
Lease Purchases
Legal Costs
Rent for ECC
Tuition Reimbursement
Sick Day Payout for Retirees
All Other Expenses*
Total Expenses

Aside from the $21 million to be paid by property taxes, state aid accounted for $10,788,608 of the district’s revenue stream. The remaining $2 million came from special grant funds, a debt fund, excess surplus, tuition paid to the district from other districts, interest on investments, ticket receipts for events, rental of facilities, and payment from the municipality to run programs at the Anthony Signorello Youth Center ($72,000).

Local Tax Levy
Local Source
Unrestricted Miscellaneous
Other Restricted Miscellaneous
Categorical Transportation Aid
Extraordinary Aid
Categorical Special Education Aid
Equalization Aid
Categorical Security Aid
Medicaid Reimbursement
Other State Aid
PARCC Readiness Aid
Per Pupil Growth Aid
Professional Learning Community Aid
Excess Surplus
Total Special Grants Fund
Total Debt Fund
Total Revenues

The school district used the school tax rate provided by the borough’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Ken Blum to come up with the following breakdown of increases on households that ranged in their assessed values from $200,000 to $300,000. Using the municipality’s average assessed value of $253,000, the increase from last year’s school portion of property taxes is estimated at $144.30. The estimated amount of $5,053.37 is to be paid from a homeowner’s property tax for the school district – again for a house assessed at $253,000. That comes out to almost $14 a day.

After the summary of the budget, School Superintendent Pedro Garrido reviewed the consequences for both the approval and rejection of the tentative budget.  It is important to note that the budget, after being reviewed and approved by the county school superintendent, is voted and approved – or rejected – by the Board Of Education (BOE), not the public. Mr. Garrido also touched upon future plans that will try to cut costs such as reducing transportation costs, having students who go out-of-district for instruction return to the district, and even possibly redistricting to make the most economically efficient use of facilities. The out-of-district comment was geared to having those students who go to the Union Magnet School return or stay in-district and take part in AP (Advanced Placement) classes as well as participating in the district’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) program. This year, tuition for those students was 1.7% of the total expenditures.

Those in attendance then had an opportunity to ask questions or comment. Jacob Magiera asked if the district has tested its water pipes. This question was related to recent news that the water in Newark schools had high levels of lead due to piping in the building, not the water supply. Mrs. Guercio stated that full testing was done five years ago and that the district will be getting estimates to have it done again this coming year. Mr. Magiera also asked how much savings are realized because of solar panels on school district buildings. Without giving any specifics, Mrs. Guercio stated that costs initially went down some years ago when the panels were installed and have remained stable. He also asked about fees for attorneys which were budgeted at $100,000. Mr. Magiera inquired about the number of students who go out-of-district for instruction. He was told that 15 special needs students are out-of-district and around 100 go to the Union County Magnet Schools.

Greg Storey approached the microphone to ask about the average class sizes for the district, basing his inquiry on a comment made by the Superintendent that the state has a cap in the primary grades limiting class size to no more than 20 to 21 students. A review of the New Jersey Department Of Education (NJ DOE) showed that there is only a class size maximum for kindergarten of 25 and class size limitation for Abbott District schools – of which Roselle Park is not one. Mr. Storey wanted to know if there was a required average, especially for the high school but he was told there was not. He then went on to ask about the breakdown of administrators, teachers, and other staff in the district since Mrs. Guercio stated that the district employs about 300 employees. Other than stating that there were about 14 administrators, the Business Administrator said that she did not have those figure readily available but will be able to supply them if contacted.

Joseph Signorello asked about whether the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) program could be moved from its current location at the corner of Laurel and West Webster in order to cut rent. He was notified that there is still one year left on the lease agreement and that other options are being investigated.

Pamela Reinoso wanted to clarify a statement about savings associated with bringing students back in-district, especially special needs students. She remarked that for every special needs students who would return to the district would have a cost associated since trained personnel and programs would need to be hired or paid for in order to adequately instruct those students. Mr. Garrido stated that realistically it would not be possible to bring all students -, especially those classified with certain special needs – back in district in an economically feasible manner. Mrs. Guercio thanked Mrs. Reinoso on her statement to let residents know that a savings on-the-books does not necessarily mean an overall savings and that sometimes a larger expense is incurred when looking only to cut spending. For the 2015-16 school year, tuition for those students classified with severe special needs is budgeted at $1.2 million.

Eugene Meola asked for clarification on average class size and wanted to know if the class size averages were the same across the board. Pedro stated that the averages change and that the limits are is only a recommendation.

The next step will be to have the BOE vote on , and hopefully approve – the tentative budget on March 22nd so it can be submitted to the county school superintendent’s office for review and approval.  The final budget is scheduled to be voted on by the BOE on May 10th.

A copy of the budget presentation is available below for review and/or download:

Download File (PDF)