Stafford Board of Education Approves 2019-20 Budget With Slight Rate Decrease

By DAVID BIGGY | May 08, 2019

Stafford Township — Despite a larger drop in state aid than anticipated earlier this year, Stafford Township School District Business Administrator Lourdes LaGuardia reported on May 2 that the tax rate for the 2019-20 budget is slightly less than that of this year’s budget.

“It’s definitely a win,” said LaGuardia, days after the board of education unanimously approved the budget during its public hearing on May 2. “We lost 13 percent in state aid for this year, but we reallocated a few of our resources, started some cutbacks, and managed to get the rate slightly decreased. We believed in preserving the core values of our education system as it stands right now, with no program cuts.”

Following this year’s nearly 5-percent drop to 71.47 cents per $100 of assessed property value – which yielded a $111 drop in taxes for the average property of $300,000 – next year’s budget calls for a drop to 71.40 cents, which is expected to create a drop of an additional $2. LaGuardia said the board did a good job of finding ways to keep the rate stable.

“The board of education worked really hard to save money in certain areas while not having a major impact to staffing,” she said. “There were a few positions that went from full- to part-time positions, and a couple of positions were eliminated. It worked out that several teachers are retiring and the board didn’t see the need to rehire new teachers to replace them given the enrollment and class sizes within the district.”

With a total of $39,698,921 in expenditures expected for 2019-20, the four highest-cost items as part of the budget are expected to be regular instruction ($10,329,365), employee benefits ($10,578,959), special education ($4,081,788) and maintenance/security ($3,923,759), which dropped by more than $700,000 from the 2018-19 budget. And while the general budget increased by some 4 percent, an increase to ratables of about $47 million and a drop in debt services by more than $800,000 helped to offset a potential tax-rate increase.

LaGuardia said the district now has to start looking toward a future of further aid cuts from the state and maintaining a proactive approach to the budget.

“We have to plan aggressively for it,” she said. “We’re going to lose more in state aid, so we have to be resourceful and find ways to make sure our educational programs and staffing needs aren’t being hurt by that.”  —D.B.




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