HVRSD BOE approves budget, raises spending

The Hopewell Valley Regional School District board voted unanimously to approve a $90.1 million budget for the 2022-23 school year, a 2.1% increase from the current year’s budget.

The school board cited rising costs of energy and fuel, special education and transportation for increases in the budget. The District is also implementing new curriculum initiatives mandated by the State. 

“We wanted to maintain the existing programs and services — not take anything away,” said Robert Colavita, school business administrator and board secretary. He noted that Central High School is one of the state’s few remaining comprehensive high schools — offering both academic learning paths and vocational options. 

The budget also sets aside funding for possible COVID-related expenses in the fall, including contact tracing, and includes a reserve of about $270,000 for unforeseen circumstances.

“We try to develop a budget that prepares us for an uncertain future,” Colavita said. “As of right now, we are in an uncertain future.”

Most of the additional money required by the district will come from an increase in the District’s fund balance and additional state aid. The district anticipates receiving an additional $1.1 million from the State next school year. 

Changes to tax revenue are slight, with some Hopewell Township and Pennington receiving a slight tax decrease and Hopewell Borough seeing a 1-cent increase that amounts to $57 for a home priced at $475,000.

Capital improvement projects — including the replacement of the Central High School turf field in summer 2023 and the replacement of boilers at several facilities — will come out of the district’s capital reserve of $2.5 million.

Colavita noted in his presentation that enrollment in the District increased for the first time in a decade this school year, signaling a growing student body that may require additional resources in years to come.

The District also honored its Teachers of the Year and several support staff professionals at the April board meeting. 

Public comments centered on concerns about updated state sexual education guidelines being rolled out this fall. Superintendent Rosetta Treece assured parents that all sexual education programs offered by the District will continue to be optional and parents will be alerted before they begin.

As in the February board meeting, a resident raised a question about the tax implications of a planned development in Hopewell Township under the state’s PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program. The board had said they would look into it, and Colavita said meetings with the township have been reassuring.

“The bottom line is the District will continue to receive the money that it needs to get from the Township,” Colavita said.

Two Central High School students also discussed a climate action proposal they have shared with the board, which Dr. Treece praised and said the board may take up with the creation of a subcommittee. 

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