LPS seeks to spend over cap

The school wants to spend an additional $72,680 than it would be allowed under the 4 percent state spending cap.

By: Linda Seida
   LAMBERTVILLE — Taxes to support the Lambertville Public School will be going up by $44 for the average homeowner if voters in April approve the proposed $2.89 million budget as well as a request to exceed a 4 percent state cap on the tax levy by spending an additional $72,680.
   The extra money is needed to pay for a part-time teacher of English as a Second Language and a full-time primary-grade teacher, Business Administrator Toni Slack said.
   "If the question goes down, we’re going to have a very big class size in one grade," said Board of Education President David Moraski.
   The request to exceed the 4 percent cap stems from the district’s need to meet steep special education costs, according to Mr. Moraski. The school received $14,000 in aid from the state.
   But Mr. Moraski said special education costs, which schools are required by state law to meet, have increased by $100,000.
   The district estimates an enrollment of 148 students in 2007-08, up from 125 in 2006-07. Seven of the 30 special education students next year will need to be placed out of district to appropriately meet their educational needs. Tuition is anticipated to cost $266,000. Transportation is expected to cost $165,000.
   "They don’t fund what they mandate," Mr. Moraski said of the state. "I think we’re trying very hard to provide all the programs the kids need at the school, and given the financial constraints the state has put on us and the lack of state aid, we feel this is a fair budget, and the second question is fair in order to continue to provide the services the kids need. We hope the voters will support it."
   Other expenses include a 4.6 percent raise for teachers next year, the last year of a new three-year contract that was ratified in February. At that time, Mr. Moraski said salaries and benefits make up about 70 percent of the budget.
   Voters April 17 will be asked to approve the proposed $2.89 million budget’s tax levy of $2,540,476 as well as the $72,680 in excess of the state cap.
   If voters approve the tax levy, the tax paid by the owner of a house assessed at the average of $360,433 would rise by $44.20 to $1,348. If voters also approve the request to exceed the cap, an additional $36.45 would be added to the bill.
   The tax rate would be 37.4 cents per $100 of assessed value, up from 36.8 cents per $100 of assessed value when the average assessment was $330,000.