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TELL US: With Middletown Schools Budget Adopted, Is No Poll Vote Better?

The spending plan calls for a .98 percent hike in the tax levy over last year, eliminating the need for a vote at the polls.

The $149.7 million 2012-13 Middletown schools budget has been approved and there will be no vote on it at the election polls this year.

A resolution has been passed sanctioning the “final proposed” spending plan with a tax levy of $125 million. And as long as the plan passes muster with the county’s executive superintendent of schools, no more action will be needed.

Legislation that was signed by Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year allows schools to forego the April elections and budget votes, providing the spending plans are capped at a 2 percent hike over the prior year’s.

Because the Middletown district opted to go with the state option and keep its budget under the 2 percent cap, the state says there is no need to put it to a public vote.

Last year’s tax levy was $123.8 million and this year’s is $125 million. It translates to a .98 percent hike in the levy, well under the 2 percent levy hike cap, or $1.3 million below it.

It’s a different approach for Middletown schools. In years past, the administration had to take its budget show on the road in an effort to garner public support for plans that called for increases, which were most, if not all.

Oftentimes, the budget would still fail at the April election polls, then it would have to go to the Township Committee for recommended cuts and back to the Board of Education for final cuts — a process thought of as arduous and not always representative of what the public wanted.

Superintendent William George was particularly pleased with what he touted as this year’s fiscally austere budget that sets aside enough money to maintain and enhance programs.

Those programs are: full-day kindergarten, advanced placement classes and programs, athletic programs, summer programs at middle and elementary schools and PSAT and HSPA testing initiatives.

With the 2012-13 budget, there will also be staff additions, including: a music teacher at , four special education teachers, three math teachers between and high schools North and South, one new elementary teacher, 1.6 new “specials” teachers, one elementary special education teacher and one district-wide student services supervisor.

Seventy-nine (79) percent of the budget is set aside for salaries and wages, which is average.

What do you think about the lack of a vote on this year’s budget at the polls? Do you think the state legislation allowing districts to forego the April elections — with the 2 percent cap mandate — has forced fiscal austerity? Or would you rather cast a vote, even though this budget represents one of the most minimal increases in years?  

L. JACQUELINE CALLAHAN March 30, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I see NO advantage to rendering the tax payer voiceless. Governor Christi would like everyone to be voiceless but hopefully we render him voiceless. This is another of the continuing powerlessness being pawned off on the people of New Jersey while we have the highest real estate taxes in the nation.
Django Wiegers March 30, 2012 at 09:46 PM
We should still have a right to vote. The money is ours the last I checked.
patty March 31, 2012 at 03:27 AM
It costs the town/district thousands of dollars to have the special April school election. Taxpayers do still get to vote in the fall election iif the budget exceeds the 2 percent cap in their district. This is the lowest budget increase in years. Several years ago it was around +5%.
Elaine Van Develde (Editor) March 31, 2012 at 04:15 PM
You are correct, Patty. If the budget exceeded the 2 percent cap, a question would be put on the November ballot. And, yes, this is the lowest increase in a long time.

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