FAIR HAVEN BOE BARELY GETS WITHIN CAP

taxesBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

With the help of partially restored state aid, Fair Haven’s Board of Education is bringing its budget just within the two-percent cap for the 2011-’12 school year.

The $12.2 million plan — $11.8 million of it to be raised through local taxes — includes $184,807 in state aid, a $90,000 boost from the current school year’s aid, which was slashed significantly.

“We definitely had a lot of cuts on the table, so it was a very happy day when we found out we’d get some state aid back,” Superintendent Kathi Cronin said Monday night, when presenting an overview of the budget to the borough council.

If approved, the budget would mean a two-percent increase in that portion of Fair Haven property taxes. The tax levy equates to an increase of 1.6 cents per $100 assessed property value, Administrator Valery Petrone said. For the average home assessed at $535,000, that means about an $87 increase to the tax bill.

“In 18 years I’ve been here, that is the lowest increase I’ve ever seen,” Petrone said.

Along with the help of state aid, the board was able to stay within the cap by using about $200,000 from reserves, and it saw savings by renegotiating teacher health care coverage plans, Petrone said.

The two-school district also sidelined any capital investments, she said — a move Council President Jon Peters highlighted, saying that while it’s tough to balance an operating budget with long-term improvements, the board can’t lose sight of what needs to be done for the future.

“Deferring maintenance is not always an optimal strategy,” he said. “It’s hard striking that balance.”

The local school tax is distinct from the borough tax, which fell 0.2 cents this year, as well as the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School district tax and the Monmouth County and county Open Space taxes.

The school budget is up for public vote on April 27.