The borough of Tinton Falls is one step closer to offering full day kindergarten to students in September, while at the same time reducing the average tax levy by $39.
At this week’s Board of Education meeting the board approved a preliminary budget for the 2014/2015 school year that includes full day kindergarten. The budget will now be sent to Executive Superintendent of Schools Joseph Passiment, Jr. for approval before coming back to the board for a public hearing and final vote.
“There could be changes,” warned Board President Peter Karavites.
Before taking the unanimous vote Superintendent of Schools John Russo made a power point presentation of curriculum changes and Board Secretary and Business Administrator Tamar Sydney-Gens presented financial details to the small audience comprised mainly of teachers and school representatives along with three residents.
Russo said all the kindergartens will be at the Mahala F. Atchison School with third graders being moved to Swimming River School.
Sydney-Gens explained that funding for the plan is mainly coming from $279,587 in the Cap Bank which will expire this year if not used by the district.
“It’s either use it or lose it,” Sydney-Gens said.
Cap Bank funds are funds above the 2 percent cap restriction which are budgeted for but not used. Boards are only allowed to hold the funds for three years when they automatically expire.
Sydney-Gens said Passiment gave the board approval to use the funds for the full day kindergarten.
She also said because ratables in the borough have increased, with the average price of a home rising to $322,000 from $303,000, the average resident will save $39 next year.
Board Member Paul Ford said before voting, “Providing full day kindergarten and getting a tax decrease, what could be better than that.”
Resident Jeff Davidson questioned the board during public comments about why they did not put the vote to a referendum because although the initial costs were included in the budget under cap, financing for the full day kindergarten will have a big impact on the district moving forward.
Sydney-Gens explained that once approved the funds will then become part of the general budget and will automatically be included in the following year’s cap formula.
Karavites said when the proposal for the program was first introduced the cost was “outrageous.”
“We said we wouldn’t move forward if the taxes would be too high or if we needed to go to referendum,” he said.
If the budget had not been completed within the cap, the board would have had the option of putting it on the November ballot as a public question.
Karavites said when he first moved into the borough his son attended full day kindergarten before the program was stopped and half day kindergarten was implemented.
“It’s time. The board thought long and hard about this – to be bringing full day kindergarten and lowering taxes, it’s a perfect scenario for it,” Karavites said.
The public hearing on the budget is April 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Atchison school.