ATLANTIC CITY — The local school property-tax levy will drop about $2.5 million in 2017-18 because the district will pay off construction debt, school Business Administrator Celeste Ricketts told the school board at the budget hearing Thursday.

The decrease, while only a small percentage of the total $88.8 million to be raised by local taxes, is one of several steps to be implemented over the next several years to reduce taxes.

The projected 2017-18 school budget of $165.2 million approved by the board is almost $7.7 million less than the current year’s budget of $173 million.

It includes an additional $32 million in state aid approved as part of the Atlantic City PILOT law, bringing the district’s total state aid to almost $51 million.

That aid and budget cuts have helped reduced the local property tax levy more than $45 million, from a high of more than $135 million in 2014.

The tax levy to support the operating budget remains flat at $81.9 million for the third year.

The impact on local taxpayers is not yet known. Ricketts said they are still working with the city to determine how the casino PILOT payments will be distributed.

Salaries are increasing $2.5 million, but benefits costs are decreasing $5.2 million due to the district switching from a private plan to the State Health Benefits Plan as part of the new contract with the Atlantic City Education Association.

The district will lose about $2.3 million in tuition payments from its high school sending districts, due to decreased enrollment from the sending districts and a reduction in the cost of tuition as the district’s costs have been reduced.

Enrollment from the sending districts has dropped from 574 in 2013 to 434 in 2016 due to a combination of fewer students in the sending districts and more of them choosing other options such as charter, choice and vocational high schools.

Board Vice President Allen Thomas suggested the district consider a marketing plan to highlight some of the district’s programs, such as JROTC and crew, to recruit students.

“From a business standpoint, it makes sense to invest in keeping them,” he said.

The district also budgeted almost $8 million for students attending charter schools in 2017-18, which includes K-8 and well as high school students.

Board member Patricia Bailey asked about the status of the closed New Jersey Avenue and Indiana Avenue schools. Assistant Superintendent Barry Caldwell said appraisals came in low, but they are looking at options. He said Indiana Avenue is still viable as a school, and the district is looking at future options when the costly lease it has on the administration offices expires.

There is no reduction in force planned since the massive reduction of more than 220 jobs in 2015.

State monitor Ronald Fisher said the goal now is to maintain academic programs while reducing other costs. Another bond issue will be paid off next year.

“Cost savings are going to happen incrementally,” Fisher said.

Contact:

609-272-7241 DDamico@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressDamico

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