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MORANA: SCHOOL TAX COULD’VE BEEN WORSE

By WIL FULTON

Red Bank’s school board unanimously approved the borough’s 2013-2014 school budget at the Thursday night before a small group of residents and school officials at the primary school.

The spending plan weighed in at $13.2 million, up $522,503, or 4.1 percent, from last year. The increase might have topped 8 percent, had the district chosen to employ “banked cap,” a method that allows districts to exceed the state-mandated limits on budget growth, said Superintendent Laura Morana.

But “when we thought about the impact [the tax levy] would have on households, and families for community members in Red Bank, we decided it was too high,” Morana said. “We wanted to be responsive to the needs of our children – meeting their educational needs, having the appropriate personnel, supplies and technology – but at the same time, we needed to think about the members of our community, and really think about the impact on the community.”

According to Morana, the district was able to make up some of the difference by qualifying for several federal and state-sponsored aid programs.

Through the state, Red Bank will receive aid to accommodate the continuing influx of new students in the system in recent years, and the ripple effect as they travel through the grades. Enrollment Growth Aid and Adequacy Aid are two such programs, combining to bring $713,131 in to the school in 2013-2014 alone. Red Bank will also receive $619, 881 from the No Child Left Behind program, designed for disadvantaged students, and $192,561 from the IDEA program (Integrated Disability Education and Awareness), targeted for special-needs students.

The new budget means that the owner of a home assessed at last year’s average of $405,522, will see an increase of  $93.39 for the year. The new rate is 64.9 cents per $100 of assessed value.

According to Morana, the extra money is needed for such costs as adding an additional second-grade teacher as well as an additional fourth- and fifth-grade world languages teacher because of larger classes moving through the system. Morana also stressed the importance of integrating current technology into the classroom and putting computers and tablets in the hands of young students in order to prepare them for their future academic and professional endeavours.

“We need to prepare the district for online student assessments [which will begin in 2014-2015], but also to integrate modern technology into the classroom on a daily basis,” she said. “We’re just now getting the needed tools into our classrooms.”

Two views of the budget can be found here.

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