HAZLET – The annual school tax bill for homeowners would be about $50 less than last year for the average homeowner, under a new budget proposed by the Hazlet Board of Education Monday night.
The owner of a $291,000 home, the township’s average, would pay $5,095.41 in school taxes, down from $5,144.88 last year, assuming their house value has remained the same. The school tax rate would decline 1.7 cents, to 1.751 per $100 of assessed valuation.
The district’s $59,690,147 spending plan for 2018-19, introduced at the meeting held at Beers Street School, includes $42,679,419 to be raised by taxation – an increase of $1,378,877 over last year. After it is approved by the county superintendent, a presentation of the spending plan and a public hearing will be held at the May 6 school board meeting at Raritan High School.
Hazlet district received $9,990,391 in state aid earlier this month, which is $460,782 less than last year. Hazlet Township School Business Administrator Christopher Mullins and the board’s finance committee handled the shortfall by shaving over $1 million from different places.
“We did make reductions to move forward,” Mullins said. To save money, the district decided to end its experiment with a multi-grade classroom in the schools, which combines elementary school students from two grade levels into one customized classroom. Four teacher positions were eliminated in Lillian Drive, Middle Road, Raritan Valley and Beers Street School, all through attrition, Mullins said.
In 2016, voters approved a $43.7 referendum to pay for improvements to the district’s eight schools, such as heating and air conditioning, roof replacement, parking lot repairs and bathroom renovations over three years. The state is paying 40 percent of the principal and interest; the rest is being funded by the reallocation of capital project funds into debt service funds. The budget reflects the state’s contribution of $681,659 towards debt service state aid.
“That will stay level for the next 19 years,” said Mullins.
To the relief of parents and paraprofessionals who attended the meeting, a proposal that would have saved the district health benefit expenses by employing only part-time aides for special needs students, going forward, was shelved.
Superintendent Scott Ridley praised the parents of the Hazlet Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG) for engaging in respectful and constructive dialogue with administration about their opposition to the idea.
“We brought their concerns to the board who listened and said, ‘You know what, they have a good point.’ And decided to not – as we go about the business of losing a half million dollars (of state aid) in our budget – not to hire part time paraprofessionals, to hire them full time.” There was a round of applause.
Maureen Miller, a paraprofessional at Sycamore Drive Early Childhood Learning Center, addressed the board, thanking the SEPAG parents and Dr. Ridley. “We’re here for the children and we love what we’re doing,” she said.
Parent Jean Cahill expressed her gratitude to the board, saying “Paraprofessionals provide such a service to that community, and I can’t imagine them not having someone dedicated.”