The move will slice $3 million from the nearly $40 million tax levy, reducing the increase in the tax levy from the introduced 12 percent to the more reasonable 3.7 percent hike.
This means the average homeowner of $140,000 in property will pay about $80 less in new taxes than they would have if the budget had passed. But they will still pay a remaining $69 increase in taxes over the coming year.
The school tax rate is now projected to stand at $15.08 per $1,000 of assessed value. Residents also will pay taxes to the county (which is expecting an increase this June) and the township.
Delaying new staff Once the initial budget was overwhelmingly voted down last month (4,101 to 328 votes), a practice that has now occurred in each of the last 28 Board of Education elections in the township, Mayor Nicholas Sacco, who also serves as the assistant superintendent of schools, and Township Administrator Chris Pianese, went over the line items in the budget to see where cuts could be made that wouldn't have a dramatic effect on the existing programs.
The Board of Commissioners agreed to cut $1.8 million in the current expense area of the budget, delaying the hiring of new faculty members and other support staff, while taking an additional $1.2 million off the budget that was earmarked for capital improvements, like equipment, construction, and possible new facilities.
"This is a significant cut," Sacco said. "I want people to realize that. They're still getting a 3.7 percent tax increase, but that is equivalent to the rise in the cost of living. The current programs will continue. I believe the increase is certainly livable. We had a lot of people working on it."
The proposed cuts include a $634,000 reduction in general instruction, a $115,000 cut in special education instruction, a reduction of $130,000 in bilingual instruction, a drop in $60,000 in co-curricular and extracurricular activities and a cut of $30,000 in athletic programs.
An additional $822,000 will be cut from attendance services, health services, student transportation and other venues.
"We did leave some capital improvements in, but others were cut," Sacco said. "At this point, we did what we had to. We all agreed that we couldn't live with that tax increase, that something had to be done. After careful review of every line item, we presented a budget that will serve everyone and allow us to continue with the services that we provide for our students."