Only four of the 88 kindergarten-through-8th-grade school districts of its size in New Jersey will outspend Red Bank on a per-pupil basis this year, the state Department of Education says.

But that unwanted distinction is a reflection of a familiar reality here in town, says schools Superintendent Laura Morana: the district’s obligation to provide bilingual instruction to a great number of its 800 students, as well as the costs of special-needs students and a $1.8 million obligation this year to the Red Bank Charter School.

Considering those factors, Morana says the district has come up with a “major achievement” with a budget slated for a vote tonight by the Board of Education that raises the local schools levy by just $40 a year for the average-value home in town, now set at just under $405,000.

“We really do a great deal with a lot less” than other towns that don’t have the same constraints, Morana tells redbankgreen.

Morana says the spending plan is noteworthy because it includes a dramatically expanded music program that had been cut to the bone in the past, as well as plans for non-remedial summer ‘enhancement’ instruction, available at both the Primary School and the Middle School under plans now in the works.

Managers of other districts have told her, Morana says, that they envy the state-leading 18-percent increase in aid that Red Bank recently received, or $367,871. “But I tell them, ‘you get to keep all of yours. We have to pay nearly $2 million to the charter school.'”

In its Comparative Spending Guide, released last Friday, the state education department says that Red Bank’s $13,163 per-student costs were 84th in a low-to-high ranking of 88 districts with 751 or more students.

The state average for comparable K-8 districts was $11,032 per student. The borough’s relative place statewide has barely changed over the last three years.

Classroom salaries and benefits account for the greatest share of the cost, as Red Bank spends an average $7,304 per student in this category, compared to the state average $6,400.

In administrative costs, the borough ranks near the middle of the pack at 46th, with expenditures per pupil of $1,351, versus the state average $1,299.

Fair Haven will spend $9,472 per pupil overall this year, and Rumson, $10,986. In Little Silver, the figure is $9,821, and in Tinton Falls, $13, 594, ninth-highest in the state.

Voters will get their say on the budget in district elections on April 17.

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