By CAROL GORGA WILLIAMS
During a special meeting – with no member of the public present and four members of the school board absent – the Asbury Park Board of Education adopted its tentative 2022-23 budget totaling $70.1 million.
The amount to be raised by taxation is $18,899,447 which means for city taxpayers with an average home assessed at $453,060, the increase would be $448.53 a year, or $37.38 a month or $1.10 every day for the school tax year, according to Geoffrey J. Hastings, business administrator and board secretary.
If your home value is less – say $300,000 – your increase would be $2,034 a year or $24.75 a month. If you have a higher-end home- – an $800,000 assessment, for example – you can expect to pay $5,424 or $792 more each year. The monthly increase would be $66.
The board members present – President Carritta Cook and Ladina Alls, Giuseppe Grillo, Dominic Latorraca and Jessiemae Ricks – voted an unanimous adoption of the tentative spending plan and set 6 p.m.April 27 for a public hearing at the Bradley Elementary School at 1100 Third Ave.
The $51.7 million is a combination of special revenue of $18,373,303 and a general fund amount of $32,872,630. The district has no debt service.
These totals are different from an early introduction by title only because school board members authorized Hastings to take a hard look at the numbers in the interim. The district’s operating budget is $49,147,077 while grants and entitlements – line items funded in their entirety by the state or federal government – amount to $19,363,511.
The per pupil cost to educate a student for the 2020 to 2021 school year was $31,000.
The district laments the pattern – going back to 2018 – of declining state aid. That year, the district aid figure was $54.4 million, a reduction of nearly $1 million. This year, the state aid figure is $33.2 million, a reduction of $8.6 million. By 2025, Hastings estimates the cumulative loss of state aid will amount to 37.2 million.
“For this administration, this year was the most difficult budget (dealing with) a cut of $8,6 million” in state aid, Latorraca said, “We are not done yet in terms of the loss of state aid. Over the next two years, we will lose a significant amount.”
Administration and board members adjusted the budget to rely on increased extraordinary aid. It also intends to repurpose grant funding based on district priorities and projects, although that may not be as easy as they hope as grant funding is typically allocated for very specific programs. The district also withdrew $150,000 from its $350,000 maintenance reserves to provide for facility improvements and withdrew $25,000 for emergency reserves to continue to fund the Asbury Park Police school resource officers.
Although the budget may seem high – with myriad opportunities to trim. – Hastings said the majority of the operating fund is actually comprised of fixed costs with 44.3 percent provided for salaries, 21.3 percent accounting for tuition to the three city charter schools, employee benefits accounting for 18 percent, pupil out-of-district cost is 6 percent, utilities is 2 percent and other – supplies, books, trips, transportation – is 8.4 percent.
“There are (fewer and fewer) areas to look at to cut the budget,” Hastings said.