Home » HVRSD expects to raise taxes to meet $1.8 million budget shortfall

HVRSD expects to raise taxes to meet $1.8 million budget shortfall

by Amie Rukenstein

The Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education presented its tentative 2023/24 budget at its regular meeting March 13.  As HVRSD Superintendent Dr. Rosetta Treece and BOE President Anita Williams Galiano warned in their recent interview with MercerMe, costs have gone up and the District now is struggling to pay for services District families have come to expect.

Chief among surging costs is transportation, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business / Board Secretary Robert Colavita. The District estimates that transportation costs will be $5,857,784 in the coming year compared to this year, which is projected to be $5,168,015.  The District has struggled since the COVID pandemic with recruiting and retaining bus drivers and, as everyone is experiencing, inflationary costs put pressure on the District’s resources. 

Total enrollment in 2022/23 is 3,449 (down from 3,946 in 2009/2010). Of that number, 3,000 (87%) are transported to school every day. Families who live within the courtesy bussing area pay $500/student for the service.

The second largest increase the District predicts is in healthcare costs for staff. This year, the cost is expected to be $17,500,000; next year, the District expects to need $18,573,841 to cover those costs.

Colavita explained that, going into the budget process this year, the District faced a revenue shortfall of $4.1 million. With an estimated $600,000 of additional State aid, use of savings (known as banked cap) of $268,677 and of a health benefit waiver of $1,547,434, the gap was closed to approximately $1.8 million. Further reductions were made by eliminating staff positions via attrition, bringing some special education students back into the District, and delaying some technology upgrades.

School budgets are funded almost entirely by property taxes (86%). Therefore, in order to avoid cutting programs the Valley has come to rely on, something both the Board and staff said they strongly resist, the District will have to look to taxpayers to fund the shortfall. While the school tax part of property tax bills fell last year for Hopewell Township (-.07 per $100,000 of assessed value) and Pennington (-.01 per per $100,000 of assessed value) and went up only .01 per $100,000 of assessed value in Hopewell Borough, all three municipalities will see increases this year. Colavita expects that that the following increases per $100,000 of assessed value will be assessed:

Hopewell Borough .07

Hopewell Township .03

Pennington Borough .15

Hopewell Township continues to bear the lion’s share of funding at 76.94% of the total levy.

The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 24, 2023.

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