Home » As the cost of doing business continues to rise, so will the school tax

As the cost of doing business continues to rise, so will the school tax

by Amie Rukenstein

At its March 18, 2024 meeting, the Hopewell Valley Regional School District administration and school board rolled out their tentative 2024/2025 budget, which includes a 2.6% increase, resulting in a property tax increase for residents of the Hopewell Valley. The final vote for the budget is scheduled for April 29, 2024, 6:30pm at the School Board offices.

Driving the increase is the inflation all Americans have felt since the COVID-19 epidemic. For the District, this is particularly seen in the areas of transportation costs, insurance, and staffing – all areas that are difficult to control. As District Superintendent Dr. Rosetta Treece and Robert Colavita, assistant superintendent for business, discussed with MercerMe earlier this year, while the bus services are staffed up now after a drop-off during COVID, retaining employees means raising salaries. Salaries for staff also are challenging because the applicant pool is much smaller than it used to be, so any vacancies must be filled with experienced teachers who cost more than teachers recently graduated from college. And anyone who has tried to obtain insurance for any reason recently knows how fraught that industry is.

Here are some of the highlights from the budget presentation. To see the whole presentation, go to hvrsd.org. Click Menu at the top. On the right, scroll down to Board and click on Agenda & Minutes. Click “Meetings” in the top, right, gray box. On the left, select the March 18 regular meeting. Click View the Agenda. Scroll down and click item C6, “Presentation and Adoption of the 2024-2025 Tentative Budget and Special Opportunity for Public Comment on the 2024-2025 Tentative Budget.” You can also watch the whole meeting here.

  • Dr. Treece stated that it is clear to the administration and the board, from public comments they have received, that the things offered in the District, the extensive program that is provided, including performing arts and safety, [which had been featured earlier in the meeting] are not offered everywhere and that the public wants those programs to be retained. She also mentioned that the STEM program, which was on hold for a year, will be reinstated. She indicated there is a cost to that, but it is something that they have heard clearly that the public wants.
  • Colavita indicated that we are no longer a Title 1 school and so we will not get that funding this year. He explained in a later email to MercerMe that the purpose of Title I is to provide all children a significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps. Title I provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging, State academic standards. Based on a recent review of the United States Department of Education’s (USED) preliminary 2022 Census data, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) determined that Hopewell Valley will be ineligible to receive Title I, Part A funding in the 2024-2025 school year.
  • State aid this year will be approximately $500,000. Colavita had anticipated closer to $800,000, but he said that he was gratified to not have the situation of some of his colleagues who are in districts that lost their state funding all together.
  • Colavita noted that while it seems like one municipality or the other feels the pinch more one year, it seems to even out over time.
  • There were no comments from the public about the budget.

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