Fund balance sheet sheds light on Montclair schools’ finances
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL
By ERIN ROLL
Budget planning season is under way in Montclair’s schools.
At the Board of School Estimate meeting on Nov. 29, the board presented the fund balance sheet, which included numbers on revenues and expenses over the past 10 years.
Montclair’s school tax bill has gone up by almost 25 percent since 2008, and most of the district’s expenditures, including those for health insurance, have also risen.
On Friday, it was too early to tell what the budget would bring for the 2018-2019 school year.
“If you think of a budget of our size...there are things that change on a yearly basis and could impact the budget,” business administrator Emidio D’Andrea said.
Two of the biggest cost drivers for the district in recent years have been special education and health benefits, D’Andrea said.
The fund balance shows a $9.4 million increase in what are known as unallocated benefits. This includes health benefits, as well as Social Security, retirement contributions, worker’s compensation, tuition reimbursement and clothing allowances, the business administrator said.
Montclair’s school tax levy has risen almost 25 percent over the past decade. In 2008, the tax levy stood at about $88 million. By June 30 of this year, that amount had risen to $109,921,598. This represented an increase of $21,758,137, or a 24.68 percent increase.
Regular instruction is the largest budget item, with $38,597,011 allocated as of June 2017, followed by unallocated benefits: $33,415,259, and student and instruction-related services: $22,995,689.
Special education accounted for $10,304,567.
When the 2017-2018 school budget was presented in March, it included a tax levy of $112,471,548. For the average Montclair household with a home value of $503,448, this would have equaled a $222.95 tax increase, and a total school tax bill of $9,901.37.
The tax levy is higher than that of some of Montclair’s neighboring districts. In Bloomfield, the 2017-2018 budget was expected to include a tax levy of $71,949,434.
In Verona, this year’s budget was expected to include a tax levy of $31,810,340.
Other districts in North Jersey have a higher tax bills. In Parsippany-Troy Hills, the levy was $132,215,563, and in Wayne, it was $145,825,281.
Besides the tax levy, another financial issue facing the district is the subject of state aid. Like many other school districts, Montclair has had to deal with a loss of state aid.
In 2008, Montclair received $20,398,827 from the state. The amount dropped over the next three years to a low of $14,519,845 in 2011. Since that time, the district’s aid allotment has rebounded. For 2017, the district received $23,741,892: a 16 percent increase over the 2008 aid numbers.
Montclair is hoping that with a new governor preparing to take office in January, the state will make more money available so each district receives its full allotment of aid. The school financing formula has been mostly underfunded over the past 10 years.
Montclair’s health insurance carrier is Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. For the 2017-2018 school year, Montclair had a monthly premium of $1,418,184. But a presentation during the BOSE meeting indicated that Montclair was paying less for premiums than it would have with either of New Jersey’s health benefits plans for state employees.
D’Andrea said it was difficult to compare Montclair’s health plan and the state plan, noting that the two plans are not identical.