The Board of Education approved a preliminary $129.8 million tax levy at its meeting Thursday night, a 3.8 percent increase from the $124.9 million levy last year.
As it currently exists, the tax levy would raise the average homeowner’s school taxes by $250, or 4.5 percent.
Board President Donald Pavlak Jr. expressed his displeasure with the proposed increase.
“We’re going to get that number down,” Pavlak said. “There is no way I’m supporting that number for the final budget.”
Pavlak said the Board will have to cut more from the tax levy if it is to come under the state-mandated 2 percent cap on publically-funded budgets. Residents will not vote on the tax levy this year, unless it increases more than the cap, the result of a new law that allows the change to be implemented and moves the Board’s annual election to November.
As it is currently constituted, the district’s 2012-2013 total operating budget is $139.6 million, up from $132.5 from last year, a 7.1 percent increase.
The budget includes $1.3 million in banked cap funds, which were held over from last year. The money will be used to maintain class sizes.
The budget is not final; changes can, and will, be made to it between now and the 29th, Pavlak said. The Board had to approve the budget Thursday because the Passaic County Superintendent of Education needs to receive it by Friday.
“I want to make that clear to everybody, this [budget] is preliminary, this is not the final product,” Pavlak said.
Officials said that the district could spend approximately $85 million on salaries and $22 million on employee benefits next year.
Officials are already anticipating nearly $1.5 million in reductions, including eliminating four paraprofessional positions. The amount also takes into account $682,000 in breakage due to staff members retiring. Breakage is amount a district saves when a teacher retires and another is hired at a lower salary to replace that person.
Superintendent Ray Gonzalez gave a presentation on the preliminary budget at the meeting. (A copy of the presentation has been attached to this article and is also available on the district’s Web site.)
The district’s enrollment is estimated to increase slightly next year to 8,630 from 8,557 students this year; that amount includes 1,324 special education students, up 22 from this year.
Two public hearings on the budget will be held this month: March 6 at Wayne Valley High School, and March 20 at Wayne Hills High School; both meetings start at 7 p.m. The public will have the opportunity to ask officials questions at those meetings.