Kittatinny Regional school budget passed

| 28 Mar 2012 | 03:21

    State aid cuts will affect Kittatinny Regional taxpayers in 2012-13 By Heather Ann Schaefer NEWTON — The Kittatinny Regional School District (KRSD) board voted unanimously to approve the adoption of a budget for 2012-13 that will raise the district’s tax levy by 1.46 percent. School tax allocations for Fredon, Stillwater and Sandyston will increase, while Hampton’s contribution will drop. Walpack, with no students enrolled, is exempt from paying taxes to support the regional high school. Regional school district tax levies are periodically reviewed by the New Jersey Department of Education Division of Finance and Regulatory Compliance. Adjustments in tax allocation and state aid are based on a complex formula which considers property valuation and school enrollment for each municipality. Estimates of cost of living are also used as a basis for aid allocation to schools. “Unfortunately the Department of Education does not seem to be paying their fair share to lower our tax burden in Sussex County,” said District Superintendent Craig Hutcheson, who is working with local legislators to eliminate an upcoming automatic 10 percent reduction in state aid for Sussex County schools. “It may be less expensive to live here,” said Hutcheson, comparing Sussex to surrounding counties, “but it isn’t any cheaper to run a school district.” He considers the funding formula unfair in part because it fails to account for common cost factors such as transportation, special education and pension and health benefits. “Rural districts in Sussex County, where students don’t walk to school, pay much higher transportation costs than other areas of the state,” said Hutcheson. Hutcheson will also meet with state representatives in Washington D.C. to advocate for reinstatement of federal Impact Aid dollars that have traditionally constituted 1 percent of the district’s budget. Impact Aid to KRSD makes up for property tax revenue lost in the government’s 1960s era land acquisition for the then-proposed Tock’s Island Dam. Funding for Impact Aid is not included in the 2013 federal budget. State aid held over from the 2011-12 budget will offset the cost of the new roof project at the high school. The planned installation of solar panels to areas of the new roof is expected to recoup $30,000 to $40,000 annually in energy costs for the district over the next 15 years. “Excellent schools are the hallmark of the value a community places on its young citizens,” said Hutcheson. “We feel this budget is fiscally sound and also adds to what we do here at this school.” The Superintendent and school board intend to add back a limited number of activities and programs that were cut from the 2010 and 2011 budgets. Winter cheerleading and the ski club will be reinstated, along with a limited schedule of freshman athletics. Also, a new assistant band director and a junior high musical director will join the Kittatinny staff. Plans for the budget also incorporate the addition of advanced placement classes in physics and statistics, and a focus on improving standardized testing accessibility and performance for the region’s special education population. “We are charged with developing a curriculum that teaches 21st century skills and college readiness,” said Hutcheson.