Edison school district proposes first school tax cut in history, but rates unlikely to drop
EDISON — Edison residents this year will vote on a school budget that requires fewer local tax dollars than the current spending plan, but due to a decrease in ratables it is not expected to reduce school taxes.
In the proposed $212 million budget, $188,235,709 would come from local taxes, a drop of $56,012 over the current school year.
District leaders say it is the first school tax decrease ever in Edison, the state’s fifth-largest municipality by population, with an enrollment of 14,540 students this year. Enrollment is up from 13,689 students in the last six years.
"It’s pretty exciting to propose the first tax cut in history for the Edison school budget," Superintendent Richard O’Malley said. "Based on our records, it is the only time we can account for this reduction in the tax levy in our history."
One factor contributing to the decrease is a $900,000 increase in employee contributions to benefits and pensions. Under new state regulations increasing public employee contributions, Edison school district employees will pay $2.7 million toward their benefits this year.
"You are starting to see the reaping of a couple of benefits from some policies that may not have been popular," O’Malley said.
School districts across New Jersey are noticing the increased employee contributions and seeing the benefit, said Frank Belluscio of the state School Boards Association.
"Health care costs have been the most rapidly increasing costs in budgets," Belluscio said. It’s too early to say if that will translate into tax reductions, he said, adding that cutting tax levies as Edison did is rare.
Edison also cut special education costs by $750,000 by providing more services within district and consequently reducing the number of students sent to other providers.
O’Malley said an additional $1.5 million in state aid and $1.5 million in reserve funds also contributed to the tax cut. The tax levy was reduced even though the total budget increased by $7 million from the $204.9 million budget for the current year.
Residents won’t see the drop in their property tax bills, however, because of an overall decrease in the township’s tax ratables.
School officials included funds for 10 new positions, including six teachers for an elementary school-level gifted and talented program and two world language teachers.
"We will not lower our expectations and we will continue to deliver academic success." O’Malley said.
School board members will have a final public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. March 26 at John P. Stevens High School.