Twp. Committee mulls budget aid for schools

Officials say surplus could help township
offset state aid freeze

By alison granito
Staff Writer

Twp. Committee mulls
budget aid for schools
Officials say surplus could help township
offset state aid freeze
By alison granito
Staff Writer

MILLSTONE — With municipalities around the state in a tight spot after the governor’s recent announcement that the amount of state aid will remain at last year’s levels, township officials said that, due to the township’s substantial surplus, Millstone is in good shape.

At last week’s Township Committee meeting, the governing body kicked off discussion on this year’s budget.

Committeeman Cory Wingerter said that the surplus that the committee has accrued throughout the years can act a "rainy-day" fund to protect Millstone from the financial crunch other towns are facing due to the freeze in state funds for a second year in a row.

Officials have said previously that the community has approximately $7 million in surplus in the bank.

In addition to having the advantage of a substantial surplus, Wingerter said that the department heads "got the message" that they needed to hold the line on spending this year.

However, he also noted that the municipality was expecting to see costs rise in recreation and the Department of Public Works.

Along with municipalities, the governor’s office has said that many school districts may also see freezes in aid this year. The resulting funding deficit is likely to be passed along to the residents via a property tax increase.

In an appearance before the committee earlier this month, township school board officials said that the community may be looking at a potential 9-cent tax increase just to cover the cost of the total tuition that the township will pay to send an additional projected 82 students to Allentown High School.

School officials projected that tuition would go up at least $935K, even if the Upper Freehold Regional School District does not raise the rate per student from this year’s level.

Millstone’s tax rate for 2002 was $1.989 per $100 of assessed property value. Of that amount, approximately $1.47 per $100 of assessed property value, or 73.96 percent of the tax, is for school taxes.

Municipal taxes of approximately 5 cents per $100 of assessed property value, a municipal open space tax for the same amount, and county taxes round out the rest of the total.

On a home assessed at $300,000, residents pay a total of $5,967 per year, approximately $4.413 of which is devoted to the school district.

Committeeman John Pfefferkorn said that he was in favor of transferring some funds to the schools to offset the tax increase residents are likely to see from the school district this year, because interest on school taxes has contributed to the current surplus.

Pfefferkorn cited the school district’s likely referendum to ask voters to approve funds to build a new middle school, which is planned for September.

"What I’m suggesting is that we think about using some of the surplus to pay for the recreational elements of a new school," Pfefferkorn said, noting that the entire community would use an auditorium or a gym.

"We can take that burden off the tax payers and out of the referendum," he added.

"Whether we reduce the school taxes by $1 million or we reduce our budget, it all comes out of the same pocket," Wingerter said.

The committee’s next budget meeting is scheduled for Saturday at 8 a.m.