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West Windsor Proposed School Budget Sees 11 Percent Increase

West Windsor Town and School meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 5, 9 a.m. at Story Memorial Hall.

West Windsor — At town meeting voters will consider a significant tax increase for next year’s proposed school budget that is being driven mostly by an increase in special education costs.

The proposed school budget of $2.3 million is $242,500, or 11.3 percent, more than this year.

If approved as presented, the homestead education tax rate would increase slightly more than 16 cents, or 13.9 percent, to $1.32 per $100 of assessed valuation, according to figures provided by the Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union. The increase would add $324 in yearlyhomestead education taxes on a property assessed at $200,000. The non-residential rate is projected to rise about a penny to nearly $1.22.

According to School Board Chairman Erik Schutz a 14 percent jump in health care costs, a negotiated salary increase for all teachers and “significant” increases in special education costs because of reduced state and federal funding are the main reasons for the tax increase. The district also has to pay off a $147,520 deficit over the next three years.

According to the annual school district report, West Windsor will see a net increase of $242,000 in special education costs, which is now being administered through the supervisory union along with speech, physical and occupational services.

The combined proposed general fund and highway fund budgets in article 5 for the fiscal year that began Jan. 1 total $970,916, of which $751,467 would be raised by taxes, an increase of about $40,000 from last year.

Selectboard Chairman Glenn Seward said $30,000 adds one cent on the tax rate and the budget increase would have a “minimal” effect on the current town rate of 34 cents per $100 of assessed value.

With an upcoming property reappraisal, which will be done in April, Seward said it is tough to gauge the tax impact of proposed town spending.

“The biggest effect on the tax rate will be the reappraisal.

“The general fund budget and warning articles combined are up less that 1 percent,” Seward said. “It is fairly straightforward.”

The general fund budget is $419,000 and there is another $94,900 in appropriations in eight separate articles for a total of $514,258. That figure is $1,400 more than last year.

Article 6 asks voters to appropriate $35,000 to establish a reserve fund for maintaining gravel roads.

“We took the money out of the budget so the voters could weigh in on it,” said Seward. “If they reject it, they won’t be voting down the entire budget.”

The $10,000 under article 9 would fund an after school program and $6,000 in article 8 would assess Willow and Beaver brooks, which feed into Mill Brook.

“It is an evaluation to establish what effect future flooding (such as that from Tropical Storm Irene) would have on Mill Brook,” Seward said.

The $551,540 highway budget is up 3.3 percent or $18,000 from last year’s proposed amount. Additionally, there is a $126,000 deficit because of additional repair work needed after Irene, Seward said.

“The lingering effects of Irene drove up the highway budget,” Seward said.

However, surpluses in the highway account and general fund are enough to cover the shortfall, Seward added.

Nominations for elected offices are made from the floor. Seward said he has not made up him mind about whether he will seek another term. School Board member Art Keating said he is interested in serving again. Both have three-year terms.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.