Gulick introduces $90 million school budget

With enrollment growing and state aid flat,

superintendent says his plan allows for minimum
By:Marnie Kunz
   Rising enrollments and "minimal improvements" resulted in an increase of $4.8 million in the proposed 2004-05 Hillsborough school budget. Superintendent Robert Gulick presented the $90 million plan to the school board and public Monday night at Hillsborough High School.
   "Ninety-eight percent of our 2004 budget is maintaining from last year," Dr. Gulick said.
   The $4.8 million increase in the proposed $90 million budget this year is the same amount as the 2003-04 school budget increase, and represents a 5.6 percent spending increase.
   The budget proposal assumes $66,070,268 will be raised by local taxes, an increase of 8.61 percent over the $60,829,423 raised for the 2003-04 budget. The district is not anticipating any increase in state aid this year, and projects a $517,908 decrease in federal aid.
   The tax rate, however, would rise from $1.663 per $100 in assessed property value to $1.771 — a 6.49 percent increase. During Monday’s presentation, Assistant Superintendent Thomas Venanzi said the owner of a property assessed at the township average of $350,000 would see an increase of $378 on the school portion of their property tax bills, if the budget passes.
   The proposed budget total of $90 million, Dr. Gulick said, was reached after careful consideration of the students’ needs, the public’s concerns, and current economic conditions.
   "This budget included funds necessary to maintain and make minimal improvements in our programs that have been reviewed and judged to be necessary for a thorough and efficient education," Dr. Gulick explained.
   Despite Dr. Gulick’s confident presentation and defense of the budget, several audience members voiced concern that costs could still be cut from the plan.
   "While property taxes increase each year, our salaries do not," Cindy Klepich of Powelson Drive said. "Who gets a $10,000 raise each year?"
   The key components of this year’s proposed budget include a revitalized and expanded technology system, added staff members to keep class sizes from expanding, and the introduction of an ice hockey and a gymnastics program in the athletic department.
   Ice hockey and gymnastics programs have been proposed in the last two year’s school budgets, only to be cut after the budgets failed at the polls.
   Each of these areas came under questioning at the meeting and will likely spur further debates.
   The proposed computer purchases and system upgrades, for instance, will be bought with a three-year lease plan under the proposed budget. The necessity of newer computers and the method of payment were a concern of several members of the board and the public.
   Resident Bob Forbes questioned an estimate for purchasing 200 computers at a cost of about $143,000 in the upgrade.
   "Seven hundred dollars for each computer sounds like a lot. I just saw an ad for Dells that were $300," Hillsborough resident Bob Forbes said. In response to Mr. Forbes question, the computers were described as including additional features not found on the advertised computers.