When it comes to the increased school tax for Manalapan, a significant impact on seniors is not anticipated.
This was the message that Superintendent of Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Schools, Dr. John J. Marciante Jr., and Business Administrator Veronica Wolf delivered to the retirement community of Covered Bridge on Thursday, April 7. They were joined by Board Members Michele Stipelman and Diane Bindler.
The presentation took place during a meeting of Manalapan-Englishtown Senior Citizens Chapter 3. Minus a PowerPoint slideshow, Marciante’s presentation of the was a replica of the one shown at the at Wemrock Brook School on March 29.
Marciante distributed packets of the slides so that everyone present could follow along with his verbal presentation. He explained how in the last few years, the district has had to adjust to caps on spending, and dealt, most recently, with the 2 percent tax cap.
“I feel this year, in this budget, that we accomplished that. That we stayed within the cap but maintained the high quality of education for the children in this community,” said Marciante.
After his presentation, Marciante handed the microphone to Veronica Wolf, the Board of Education’s business administrator.
Wolf said, that with the help of Board Member and local real estate agent Diane Bindler, she was able to pinpoint the affect of the 2011-12 school tax levy on the Covered Bridge community.
Depending on the home model and its relative assessed value, taxes for Covered Bridge residents could increase annually from $9.50 to $14.50. On a monthly basis, the increase ranges from $0.79 to $1.21.
As Wolf explained, however, the slight increases may be offset by the Freehold Regional High School district; that board has announced that it will not increase taxes for 2011-12.
“So technically, when you look at the two of us combined there is no tax increase. You’re going to see a reduction from them, and a slight increase from us, which are going to balance each other out,” Wolf said.
She added that Manalapan Township is anticipated to maintain a flat budget, so overall, Manalapan’s seniors might see very little impact on their taxes.
Democratic Committeewoman Michelle Roth was in attendance and offered her support for passing the school budget and education in general.
“If we do not educate our children well, we’re done in this country. We must give them a very good education because they’re no longer competing with kids in Freehold and Marlboro,” said Roth. “It’s now a global economy and it’s a global competitive environment and we need to give them the proper skills to do that.”
While Manalapan’s school tax increase may be slight, that is not necessarily the case for residents of Englishtown, who will see an increase of 5.2 cents per $100 assessed value.
At the March 29 meeting, Wolf had explained the state formula and why Englishtown was hit hard by the tax levy this year. One of the key reasons was the lack of ratable property in the small town.
Marciante and Wolf then answered questions from the seniors. One question was from a resident sitting in the back of the room who wanted to know how much his taxes would increase for his one bedroom unit, since it was not listed in the handout.
According to Wolf, he would probably see an annual increase of $8.50.
Resident Eleanor Fread had asked the Superintendent to explain charter schools, at previous board meetings.
According to state law, the district must allocate $50,000 for three children, and possibly their siblings, to attend charter schools in South Plainfield and East Brunswick. The district was forced to set aside this money when the students, who were already attending the charter schools, moved into the community.
“I can comment whether I think that’s right or not; it’s irrelevant. What we need to do is, we need to follow it, which is, the money goes with that child to that school,” said Marciante.
Fread also asked Marciante about the heaviness of student textbooks. She even wrote a letter to Marciante about this topic a few years ago.
“Has anything been done to lighten their load? Because I really feel it’s not healthy for their posture or their backs,” said Fread.
Marciante said that all of the textbooks have online components so that books and homework can be assessed online.
At the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, April 5, the Board approved new science textbooks for all students in grades 3, 4, and 5, which will have a large online component.
According to Assistant Superintendent Joanne Monroe, the textbooks will cost approximately $100,000 per grade level; however, she said that negotiations with the publisher have not yet been finalized.
Mary Zydel, president of the chapter, pointed out that not all children and their families can afford computers.
Stipelman and Bindler clarified that lessons can be printed out on paper from computers and the students can still take the book home with them.
Marciante also answered questions from resident Joan Orricho, whose grandson attends Manalapan-Englishtown schools. Orricho was glad to see that the district’s academically talented programs would continue and the budget included the suspension of activity fees, like sports, band and choir participation, for the upcoming school year.
Orricho also wanted to know what happens with the state lottery money and if the district sees any of those funds.
“You keep pulling back on teachers, counselors. Where is the lottery that keeps going up. It’s millions of dollars. Where is the schools’ portion of that?” she asked.
Marciante said that’s really a question for Trenton. Wolf confirmed that the lottery is not a dedicated fund and its allocation is subject to change.
According to the New Jersey Lottery Web site, in 2009, the lottery was the state’s fourth largest revenue producer. The $2.5 billion raised was allocated to various institutional for education programs, but not directly to budget relief.
The Superintendent and the Board of Education presented their budget to the Township Committee on Wednesday, April 13, during the Committee’s regularly scheduled public meeting at 8 p.m. at the Manalapan Township Municipal Building.