The Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education approved the District’s preliminary budget of $70,710,312, which is a 1.9% increase from last year, below the 2% state mandated cap. A public hearing is scheduled for April 24th and its final adoption will be voted on at that time by the board.
The District’s priority, when developing the budget, was to maintain low class sizes and current programmatic offerings, expand Central High School’s (CHS) Chinese program with the addition of a part-time Chinese teacher, and support the elementary schools’ garden programs by giving a $425 stipend to school coordinators.
Requests that were not included, due to budget constraints, include an expansion of CHS’s recitation to include Science and History, collaboration with the Stony Brook Watershed ($50K), teacher leaders at CHS ($20K), fencing at CHS ($20K), bowling at CHS ($7K), television studio upgrade to digital ($250K), repairs to the Administration offices ($1M), reinstatement of courtesy and late bus runs ($200 and 50-$75K), and a concession stand at CHS ($250K).
As in past years, the majority (75%) of the budget is allocated to staffing costs which includes a 15% increase in benefit and 16% (percentage in part due to reallocation of staff resources in special education positions) increase in special education costs. In order for the budget to stay below the 2% cap, the District froze expenditures on January 1 and brought some out-of-district special education students back into the District.
“Maximum reductions (of the budget) have been taken. We’ve come in under the 2% cap for the past two years, the lowest (budget) increases in district history. We can’t cut much else. Anything we do now will have a direct impact on programming which means increased class sizes, reduction in our offerings, safety and security upgrades, technology improvements, opportunities for our students, and support staff and administration,” said Superintendent Dr. Tom Smith.
School taxes, determined by the Mercer County Tax Assessor, remain the same for residents of Hopewell and Pennington Boroughs and increase by $0.03 per $100 assessed valuation of home value for Hopewell Township residents.
Click here for the District’s powerpoint outlining the preliminary budget.