School Budget Approved

The Hazlet Board of Education voted to adopt the new 2019-2020 school year spending plan that will result in a slight decrease in school taxes for the typical Hazlet homeowner, according to officials.

In a presentation for the public hearing Monday night, school board Business Administrator Christopher Mullins summarized the $59.7 million spending plan to fund school operations from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020. It includes $40.4 million to be raised through taxation for the general fund, and about $2.3 million for debt service.

Within the operating budget, health benefits increased the most, Mullins said, rising to $10 million, an increase of $1 million. Health benefits include medical, prescription and dental insurance. To save money, the board last night approved moving from Aetna to Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Special education costs rose to $9.7 million, an increase of $293,000.

The district kept salaries almost steady at $31.4 million, only increasing the amount by $23,226, which was achieved thanks to attrition, retirements and new hires, Mullins said.

Capital project expenses were greatly reduced in the operating budget because $1.3 million was shifted to the debt service budget to fund referendum projects. The board left $400,000 remaining in the operating budget to pay for a new art room at Middle Road School and a Beers Street School STEAM area.

Overall, the total general fund will be reduced by $57,000.

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Because ratables in town have increased by $101.6 million and the tax rate has dropped to 1.751, Mullins said the typical household with a home assessed at $325,000 will pay $5,690 in school taxes, or $55.77 less than last year. School taxes account for the biggest portion of a Hazlet resident’s property tax bill at 65 percent; municipal taxes are 23 percent, and county tax is a little more than 12 percent.

The district learned on March 8 it was among the state’s third of districts receiving decreased state aid due to changes in the state’s school funding formula, and due to declining enrollment. The district received $12.1 million, down $460,782 from the year before. “What we’re dealing with, and we’ll continue to deal with, unfortunately…is the $460,000 loss in state aid,” Mullins said. Unlike other towns that may have to lay off dozens of teachers, nothing was eliminated in Hazlet 2019-2020 spending plan because the budget team “worked from within,” he said. With the superintendent, Hazlet is “in conversation” with others in Trenton on how to restore the state aid, he said.

Hazlet did score state funding for its school referendum projects. Hazlet will receive $681,000 in state aid. “$681,000 we would not have gotten if we did these projects in a day-to-day basis,” said Mullins. “If we didn’t go out and do the bonding for it the state would have given us zero. So just in one year alone we’re picking up $681,000.”

Mullins gave an update on referendum projects. He said site work to improve parking lots at Hazlet Middle School, Middle Road School and Lillian Drive are out to bid, and HVAC work continues at Beers Street and Lillian Drive School.

“Come September all eight of our schools will be completely renovated,” said Mullins. “New lights, new casework, new floors, air conditioning, state of the art heating system, new fire alarm systems, new security systems, new vestibules – new, new, new,” he said.

“We pretty much took our eight schools back to the walls and created eight new schools for our students to be in,” he added.

There were no comments or questions from the public regarding the board’s budget.

Hazlet’s user-friendly budget document can be viewed at Hazlet.org.

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