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Warren Township Schools Beginning Budget Talks, Presentations

School officials tentatively expect overview on 2014-15 budget at Jan. 21 meeting.

Warren Township Board Member James Sena, third from left, raised the issue of next year's school budget at the Jan. 6 Warren Township school board meeting. By Linda Sadlouskos
Warren Township Board Member James Sena, third from left, raised the issue of next year's school budget at the Jan. 6 Warren Township school board meeting. By Linda Sadlouskos
Looking ahead to the 2014-15 school year, Warren Township board members and school administrators have set a tentative schedule for budget presentations and also began discussing whether next year's tax levy should be the 2 percent allowed by the state law or slightly lower. 

The tax levy increase in the 2013-14 school budget was 1.95 percent, for a $37.7-million tax contribution from local taxpayers, said said Pat Leonhardt, the Warren school district's business administrator and board secretary.

At last week's Board of Education reorganization meeting, a majority of board members tentatively agreed that the draft budget should be drawn up with a 2 percent tax levy increase, the maximum allowed by state law unless a school district asks voters to approve a higher increase.

Board member James Sena pointed that the school district must make some upfront contributions for a $2-million construction grant awarded to the district in December that later are due to be reimbursed by the state. He suggested the 2 percent annual increase might be lowered a few years from now.

"We have a two-year window to start," Sena said at the meeting. Sena also said that the school district has a security analysis of school facilities coming up, and the costs related to that are unknown. He said the school district doesn't want to end up in a situation where services would need to be cut for students, or additional bonds sold to pay debts.

Board Member Tia Allocco said that she, too, does not want to take on more debt or cut educational services. However, she said she would like to give some relief to taxpayers, by paring the increase to about 1.7 percent.

"it seems like we are taxing what we can, not necessarily what we need," Allocco said.

The Board of Education is slated to approve the tentative budget at its March 3 meeting, a time frame that is dependent on the release of state aid figures for next year, Leonhardt said.

The public hearing and adoption of the final budget for the next school year is scheduled for the March 24 board meeting, she said.

Leonhardt said she intends to give an overview of the budget building process and the structure of a school budget at the next Board of Education, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Central School, 109 Mt. Bethel Road in Warren.

Leonhardt said she and Schools Superintendent Tami Crader expect to give a joint presentation at the March 3 meeting, scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. at the Angelo L. Tomaso school at 46 Washington Valley Road.

She added that she and the theWe will be prepared to provide a presentation at the public hearing on March 24, which currently is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. at the Board of Education office, at 213 Mt. Horeb Road.

However, she said that if the final budget had not been changed from its initial tentative proposal, a second full presentation would be repetitive.

But the the 2015-16 school year is the last year the Warren Township School District will have a debt tax levy, Leonhardt said. That year will signal the retirement of all of the district's debt," she said.

As it is, the amount of taxes charged to repay debt already is decreasing, and is down slightly from the $613,840 of tax funds set aside to pay debt in the 2012-13 budget, Leonhardt said. 

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