Residents Will Pay 2 Percent School Tax Increase
School taxes will go up $103 for the average homeowner
School taxes will go up about $103 for the average homeowner in Mahwah this year, as the board of education approved a 2012-2013 budget Wednesday night that meets the state mandated two-percent tax levy cap.
Unlike in the past, residents will not be voting on the $53,918,588 local tax levy, thanks to a decision made earlier this year that eliminated the budget vote so long as tax increases stay within the two-percent cap.
This year’s tax rate was bumped to .984 from last year’s rate of .961. The rate increase translates into approximately $23 more per $100K of a home’s assessed value. So, the average Mahwah home, which the township estimates is worth about $450,000, will see an increase of over $100 this year.
The board also received a $400K bump in state aid this year, for a total of $2,246,181 from Trenton. District Business Administrator Ed Deptula said that amount “brings us back to about two-thirds of what we were getting from the state two years ago.” State aid was slashed to just over $700K in the 2010-11 school year, and then partially restored last year.
The extra aid, Deptula said, is allowing for the biggest change in this year’s budget over last, the addition of nine full-time positions and one part-time job in the district. “All of the positions we want to add will be based on needs in the district,” Deptula said. The proposed additions to the staff now include a first grade teacher at Lenape, three district-wide reading teachers, one ESL (English second language) teacher, two special education teachers, a high school math/science teacher, a district director of curriculum and a part-time high school business teacher.
Though the number of new hires will likely stay the same, Assistant Superintendent Janet Donohue said the specific positions may change, as the board continues to assess enrollment numbers across the district. “We are looking at numbers and need,” she said.
She did say, however, that hiring a curriculum director would be, “the best thing we could do for our district,” because that person would oversee pre-K through 12th grade curricula, opposed to individual curriculum committees working independently from one another, which is what the district has in place now. “The right person would really be the glue that holds everything together,” she said.
Deptula added that the new hires can be sustained, regardless of state aid in the future. “Our goal is to add things that we will not need to take away next year,” he said.
One resident at the meeting Wednesday night asked whether or not the ongoing contract negotiations between the board and the district’s teachers union were considered when putting together the budget. “Did you budget for teacher pay increases [for the 2012-2013 school year]?” 33-year resident Elaine Lobay asked the board. “I understand there is a fact-finding session [May 2], are you allowing for a settled contract in the budget?”
Deptula responded that the budget does allow for teacher salary increases next year. “We are operating under the assumption that we will settle the contract,” he said.
Mahwah teachers have been working under an expired contract since June 2010. Increases were given to staff in the 2010-11 school year, but according to Deptula, a change in state law caused the district to freeze staff salaries this year. “If we don’t have a contract, we will have to do that again this year, because we cannot legally pay salary increases under an expired contract.”