High Point adopts school budget with 2% increase

Wantage. Unlike last year’s 14 percent tax levy increase, the 2021-22 budget doesn’t use banked cap, which is now depleted, but will draw $150,000 from the district’s maintenance reserve.

| 25 Mar 2021 | 02:48

The High Point Regional school board is sending the draft of its 2021-22 budget to Gayle Carrick, the executive county superintendent of schools.

The $23 million budget carries a tax levy of $16.9 million, a 2 percent increase over last year’s tax levy. Unlike last year’s budget, which had a 14 percent tax levy increase, the 2021-22 budget doesn’t use any banked cap because the district has none available. The school board will use $150,000 of the district’s maintenance reserve as local revenue.

The school’s state aid has been reduced by about $797,000. High Point lost $2.5 million in state aid over the past four years.

The school board on March 16 passed the budget 7-2, with board members William Kehoe and Patricia Nugent voting against it.

Kehoe said the administration listed eight numbers in the resolution five days before the meeting and provided little other information.

“We have a fiduciary obligation to lead this operation to understand and know what we’re voting on,” Kehoe said. “There’s no way anybody can vote on what’s in this budget saying they know what’s in the budget. All we know is the maximum 2 percent was raised and the maintenance reserve was used.”

Kehoe said he felt compelled to vote for last year’s 14 percent increase because certain specific needs needed to be addressed, and because the maintenance reserve fund had dwindled to less than $1,000 and needed to be replenished.

“Now, a year later, we can totally deplete that reserve and take it into our operating budget?” he said.

Business administrator Tina Palecek said the money must be used for maintenance projects.

School board members LeeAnn Smith and Deborah Anderson said it wasn’t the board’s role to be involved in every line item. Anderson also stressed that the budget is tentative.

The school board plans to hold a public hearing on the budget at its April 22 meeting.

“Just because you’re allowed to take 2 percent doesn’t mean you need to take 2 percent a year after 14 percent was taken,” said school board member Richard Klein.

School board president Wayne Dunn called the budget a “do-no harm”’ budget.

“We are unfortunate in that we are dealing with state aid cuts that are substantial and will continue,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, the school board passed a resolution that it will send to Trenton opposing the state aid cuts.

Anderson said the district is being fiscally responsible even though it seems it’s asking for too much from the community. Staff numbers are continuing to decrease.

“Our budget is shrinking even though we had to add money to the tax levy,” she said. “We just don’t have the money.”