Sayreville school budget adopted

SAYREVILLE – The Sayreville School District Board of Education has adopted a $102 million budget that will fund the operation of the district during the 2019-20 school year.

The $102 million budget, which was adopted on May 7, will be supported by a tax levy of $66.7 million to be paid by the borough’s residential and commercial property owners.

Board President Kevin Ciak, board vice President Anthony Esposito, and board members Lucy Bloom, Christopher Callahan, Carrie Kenny, Karen Rubio and John Walsh voted “yes” on adopting the budget. Board members Daniel Balka and Phyllis Batko voted “no”.

The $95 million budget adopted by the board for the 2018-19 school year was supported by a tax levy of $65.4 million and $24.4 million in state aid.

However, the district’s state aid allocation for 2018-19 changed in mid-2018 following negotiations between Gov. Phil Murphy and leaders in the state Legislature, which resulted in a law that raised the district’s state aid for the current school year to $25.5 million, increasing the total budget to $97 million.

For the 2019-20 school year, Sayreville will receive $28 million in state aid, an increase of $2.52 million from 2018-19.

In 2018, the average home in Sayreville had an estimated assessment of $144,724 and the 2018-19 school tax rate was $2.8572 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of that home paid about $4,135 in school taxes.

For 2019, the average home is estimated to remain at $144,724 and the school tax rate in 2019-20 is estimated to increase to $2.9093 per $100 assessed valuation. The owner of that home will pay $4,210 in school taxes, an increase of $75.

Individuals pay more or less in taxes depending on the assessed value of their home and/or property. School taxes are one component of a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes Middlesex County taxes and Sayreville municipal taxes.

Prior to the board’s vote, resident Barbara Kilcommons criticized the 2019-20 budget for increasing taxes on the average homeowner while the district has received additional state aid.

“The reason for all this aid was to help residents and to help our tax payments, yet it’s just increasing and increasing,” Kilcommons said. “To me, we spend money like it’s nothing. Nobody is tightening up the reigns and really pulling in. Because we received the state aid, we should spend more? Speaking to a lot of people, when they find out their taxes are increasing, they’re not going to be happy campers. If it ever went back to the old way of approving budgets on a vote, you would lose. You would be going back to the municipality and looking to cut it.

“They [the state and federal government] give you so much aid and yet we’re still increasing taxes,” she said. “I’m extremely disappointed. And I’m sure a lot of residents will be too when they get their tax bills.”

Following the adoption, Walsh defended the financial burden of the budget, reasoning that the costs helped provide increased security, opportunities and educational benefits for students.

“I value education and I think there are a lot of people in town who do value education,” Walsh said. “Today, there was another school shooting [in Colorado] and this budget addresses that. We having vestibules and security guards. Nothing’s 100%, but this board didn’t sit with hands on the ground. We have a preschool now with 285 kids in it. That didn’t exist a couple of years ago.

“I’m real proud of this budget, what it addresses, the curriculum it addresses, and really how far we’ve come in a short time. It’s not about me, but I want people to know if $75 isn’t worth our kids being safe in school, having another sport to play [lacrosse] and having more classes, vote me out. If my legacy is that our schools are safe, our kids have sports to play, and we have great teachers and administrators, I’ll live with that. I know there are a bunch of kids jumping up and down because they’re going to have lacrosse in the high school. I know there are a bunch of parents who are happy that their kids are safe in a great environment.

“I know a lot of people who are happy and I’m happy. I’m glad that our town recognizes that Sayreville values hard work, hard workers and education. It’s worth it. There are some things that are wasteful in our town and education is not one of those things,” Walsh said.

After the budget was adopted, Superintendent of Schools Richard Labbe said, “Due to the additional state funding that we received, coupled with a 2% tax levy increase, the school district will now be able to overcome several budgetary challenges so that this budget can responsibly fund many of the remaining goals we identified in our four-year Vision 2030 Strategic Action Plan without financially overburdening Sayreville’s hardworking residents.”