Home » Hopewell Valley Board of Education Approves Final Budget

Hopewell Valley Board of Education Approves Final Budget

by Mary Galioto

The Hopewell Valley Board of Education approved the 2024/2025 school budget at its April 29 meeting amid rising costs. The final budget follows the March 18 presentation, which proposed a 2.6% increase. Learn more in our previous coverage. For more details on the initial budget presentation, refer to our previous coverage here.

The budget presentation was delivered by Robert Colavita, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Business Administrator. For the full budget and other documents, you can find it on the HVRSD BOE website.

Key Components of the Budget

  • Class sizes: The district plans to keep class sizes between 18 and 23 students.
  • Budget adjustments due to state aid reductions: Following reductions in state aid linked to increased property values, the District has adjusted its budget. Similar adjustments have been made in other districts, such as East Brunswick, which cut 51 positions.
  • Major costs:
    • Service and energy prices remain elevated. 
    • Transportation costs are rising significantly with bussing for sports teams now $725 per trip. 
    • Insurance and facility maintenance: Costs have risen, and a referendum for further facility investments is anticipated this month.

Cost Management Strategies

  • Insurance: Transition to self-insurance has reduced some expenses.
  • Staff adjustments: The District has reduced staff numbers carefully to match student needs without substantially impacting class sizes.
  • Revenue from School Choice Program: This program attracts students from across the state, providing additional revenue.
  • Group purchases and in-house repairs: The district purchases some services and materials in bulk and conducts many repairs in-house to control costs.

The presentation also outlined costs that would have to be eliminated should further budget reductions were made:

  • Courtesy bussing;
  • Kindergarten paraprofessionals;
  • Middle school athletics;
  • World Language Course of Study;
  • Wood Shop & Auto Shop;
  • Middle school teaming structure; 
  • Paid field trips; and
  • Further reduction of supplies; and
  • Reinstate athletic and enrichment fees.

School Board President Anita Williams Galiano urged caution regarding these potential cuts, noting the Board is sensitive to the financial pressures faced by households., “I do want to say to the community that these [reductions] might be impacted with nuance… to [affect] the budget… We also know that the financial pressures in your household don’t go away. We are acutely sensitive to all those things.”

Surplus management

Colavita emphasized the importance of maintaining a surplus of around 2%, approximately $2.5 million, for non-recurring expenses. He noted that the District would need to find $4 million to close budget gaps next year. Williams Galiano referenced this gap and said that the Board is challenging the District to find these savings.

Budget impact on local taxes

Tax Levy: There is a 2.6% increase in the tax levy due to a combination of decreased federal aid and limited state contributions.

  • Hopewell Borough: An increase of three cents brings the rate to $1.85 per $100 of assessed value.
  • Hopewell Township: The rate rises by five cents to $1.80.
  • Pennington Borough: A 10-cent increase brings the rate to $1.86.

Residents in each municipality will see corresponding changes. For instance, in Pennington, a property assessed at $450,000 will incur an annual tax of $8,370 (calculated as $450,000 ÷ 100 × $1.86).

Dispelling rumors about paraprofessionals

Superintendent Dr. Rosetta Treece clarified that kindergarten paraprofessionals are not being eliminated but consolidated. She explained that paraprofessionals not aligned with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) would be shared, emphasizing a scheduling rather than budget issue.

Williams Galiano urged residents to communicate concerns directly to the board and said, “We would never just slash courtesy busing without a massive conversation about how many buses we really need.”

The next HVRSD BOE meeting is scheduled for May 17, 2024.

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