Bill comes due for state-restored funding to Millstone schools

Average tax bill will increase $567 this year

BY JANE MEGGITT Correspondent

A lthough the Millstone Township School District’s proposed budget does not rely on increasing the tax rate, taxpayers will receive higher bills this year as a result of school spending.

The school district has to collect $960,683 that the state restored to the 2010- 11 budget. If voters approve the proposed $31.7 million spending plan for 2011-12 in the April 27 election, the district will also have to collect $26,371,784 in taxes for a total of $27,332,467, according to Business Administrator Bernard Biesaida.

“When you compare the taxes raised [last year] of $25,411,101 to the taxes that need to be raised in 2011-12 of $27,332,467, the difference is $1,921,366 or 10.8 cents,” Biesaida said. This means the average Millstone homeowner assessed at $510,750 will see a tax bill increase of $277 as a result of the restored funding and an additional $277 if voters approve the 2011-12 budget at the polls. The average homeowner will also be billed an extra $13 for principal and interest payments on the district’s long-term debt, making the total average tax increase $567. The debt service is not part of the annual school budget vote, because voters approved the spending in prior district referendums. For 2011-12, the district has to collect a total of $3.5 million for its debt service fund.

Biesaida discussed the taxes in detail at the Board of Education’s March 28 meeting. He explained that the district needed $26,371,784 in taxes to support the 2010- 11 budget. He explained that when the $32 million budget and $26.7 million tax levy failed at the polls last year, the Township Committee reviewed the spending plan and resolved to decrease the tax levy to $25.4 million. The Board of Education rejected the Township Committee’s decision and appealed to the New Jersey commissioner of education for full restoration of the reduction. The New Jersey Department of Education reviewed the proposed budget and decided in September to restore $960,683, or 80 percent, of the $1.2 million cut. As a result of the decision, taxpayers will be billed in the upcoming year for their portion of the restored funding.

If the district decided to keep the tax levy level in the next budget cycle, the average bill would decrease $277, according to Biesaida.

During the meeting, a member of the audience asked why the town waited to tax for the restored funding.

Township Committeeman Fiore Masci, liaison to the Board of Education, said that the town had never experienced the appeal and restoration process before. He said that the Township Committee did not know the school district intended to appeal its decision when municipal officials and Biesaida certified the tax rate.

“If we knew [the district was] appealing at the time the certification was signed, the town would have issued notices about what the tax rate could be,” Masci said.

Board of Education President Kevin McGovern said that no one expected the appeal process to last as long as it did.

“It is what it is,” he said.