WEST CAPE MAY — The borough’s school district is proposing a $1.5 million budget that would result in a tax-rate increase of less than a penny.
Chief School Administrator Alfred Savio on Wednesday said he is projecting a tax rate of 19.6 cents for each $100 of assessed value, or $196 on a $100,000 home. This is a jump from 19.3 cents, or $193 for a $100,000 home.
Savio said the average residential assessment in the borough is about $500,000, which would produce a tax bill of $980 for the pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade district. Residents pay a separate school tax for grades 7-12 to attend the Lower Cape May Regional schools.
The budget is up from $1.4 million last year, but the amount to be raised by taxes rose by less than $15,000, from $873,041 to $887,788.
Savio said the borough adding $1.5 million in ratables helped, but he noted debt service from paying off the school’s 1999 addition has declined in the past few years as the bond is paid off.
The district continues to benefit from students coming from other towns under the state’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program, which is funding close to one-third of the budget.
The West Cape May district, which hosts a single elementary school, had 74 students this year, including 30 choice students and nine tuition students in the half-day pre-kindergarten program. Three of the choice students are leaving next year, but Savio said 17 new choice students have been accepted, for a total of 44 that will draw $428,064 in state aid.
The district received $401,310 in choice aid this year but the increase to $428,064 represents only two new choice students coming next year, since the state capped increases from this program at 5 percent.
Savio said the Board of Education voted to take all the new students, even with the 5 percent cap on aid, because the second year they are in the school they will draw other forms of state aid. Savio said it means only 32 of the 44 choice students will be funded by the state during the next school year.
Just a few years ago, enrollment had dwindled and a neighboring school district was offering to take over the school. West Cape officials have said the choice program pretty much saved the school by adding students and funding.
“When I started in the 2009-10 school year, we had 37 students. I expect 85 for next year. We’re filling up classrooms that had four or five kids. Now, we have 10 to 12, and it’s like getting a private education,” Savio said.
The growth is resulting in Savio going to full-time status as of July 1. He has been a part-time administrator who also serves as business administrator, board secretary and other jobs.
The school is planning one large capital project for next year. The original section of the school that dates to 1963 never had a central heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. It instead uses window air conditioning units. Amid worries about mold, Savio said the school is planning a $500,000 project to install a central system. The project, 40 percent of which will be funded by the state, includes new windows and doors.
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