Officials wait to see if Chesterfield, North Hanover will approve budget

Voters defeated $24.6 NBC budget

By:David Koch
   NORTH HANOVER —While the governing bodies of Mansfield and Springfield have approved Northern Burlington’s defeated $24.6 million budget, school officials said they should hear tonight (May 9) whether North Hanover and Chesterfield will approve it.
   School officials presented the budget to the North Hanover Township Committee May 2, but it wanted to wait until tonight to make a decision so it could look over some additional information.
   The North Hanover Township Committee was presented with Northern Burlington’s financial statement from the last school year before the meeting May 2.
   "I do not have a problem with this budget as it is," Township Committeeman Patrick Kennedy told Superintendent James Sarruda, Business Administrator Craig Wilkie and school board members Kermit Pigott and Spencer Ladue. "But I need to give due diligence to the information we have just been given."
   The district’s budget would have raised $8.7 million through local taxes, but was defeated April 16 by a vote of 801-848. It was defeated by voters in Mansfield and Springfield, but was approved by residents in Chesterfield and North Hanover.
   School officials presented the budget to the Chesterfield Township Committee April 26 and the committee is expected to vote it tonight.
   Although state law states the budget does not need to be ratified by the governing bodies of the four sending districts until May 20, school officials said they hoped the North Hanover Township Committee would be sensitive of the fact that they need to rehire all teachers by May 15.
   The school board is expected to pass a resolution to rehire all its teachers at its meeting May 13.
   School officials said the district is not planning to cut any teachers, but if any cuts are made in the budget, then teachers and programs would have to be dropped.
   "If something happens with the budget, then we could have a very difficult situation if it’s a significant change," said Dr. Sarruda.
   If teachers are rehired by May 15, but are later cut, Mr. Wilkie said, the school district would have to pay the teachers for 60 days.
   "Life is a lot less complicated when your budget is passed," said Dr. Sarruda in a telephone interview on Friday.
   The budget would have increased the school tax rate in Chesterfield by 7 cents for a total of 83.4 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $195,000 would pay $1,626.30 in local school taxes.
   Mansfield residents are expecting a 5-cent tax rate increase, bringing the total to 72 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $150,000 would pay $1,080 in school taxes.
   Residents in North Hanover would see an increase of 10.8 cents in their tax rate for a total of 69.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $160,000 would pay $1,116.80 in school taxes.
   A proposed rate increase of 11.7 cents in school taxes in Springfield would bring the total to 89.1 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The owner of a home assesssed at the township average of $157,000 would pay $1,398.87 in school taxes.
   "There is no question that the impact of the taxes is significant," said Dr. Sarruda at the North Hanover meeting. "That’s why the school board said stay within the cap."
   The state Department of Education made a recommendation this year that revenue increases for any school budget should not exceed 3 percent.
   Dr. Sarruda said $790,000 was cut from the original school budget to stay within the cap.
   Dr. Sarruda said the original proposed budget included funds for nine new teachers this year, but the figure was cut down to four teachers.
   In addition to the proposed school tax rates from the defeated budget, taxpayers will have to pay approximately 11 cents per $100 of assessed property value in debt service. The district’s debt service amount increased by $1.3 million this year for a total of $1.8 million.
   The debt service will be used to pay for a referendum passed by district voters in December 2000 to pay for a new middle school.
   The 2002 budget is an increase of $1.5 million from last year, officials said.
   Dr. Sarruda said increases were caused by rising costs in insurance, transportation, tuition for special needs students, and salaries and benefits for teachers.
Officials also said tax rate increases were due to a "freeze" in state aid, which officials said was actually a decrease due to rising student enrollment.
   This year’s state aid for Northern Burlington remained at last year’s amount of $8.5 million.
   School officials told the North Hanover Township Committee that the freeze in state aid is a loss of $756,000 because it is a flat number that does not keep up with increased enrollment.
   Dr. Sarruda said the district has a current enrollment of 1,800 with an expected increase of 120 to 200 students by June 2003.
   "To say they froze state aid is misleading to the community, because for us it’s a reduction, a significant reduction," said Dr. Sarruda.