The school board for the Princeton Public Schools voted on Tuesday night to approve a tentative $108.2 million spending plan for the 2021-22 school year. The tentative total budget, including debt service, is about $2.4 million more than this year’s budget. The school budget makes up about 50 percent of the local tax bill.
About $80.8 million of the proposed $96.8 million general fund budget will be raised through local taxes, with taxpayers paying another $6.3 million for debt service, for a total of $87.1 million to be raised through local taxes. The proposed tax levy increase is about 1.5 percent.
Last May, the budget approved by the school board for the 2020-21 school year was $105.8 million. The 2020-21 local tax levy to fund the general fund was $79.8 million, and local taxes for debt service totalled $6.6 million, according to the 2020 budget resolution.
The proposed school tax rate would increase from $1.183 per $100 of assessed property value to $1.204 per $100 of assessed property value. The owner of a home assessed at the municipal average of about $841,000 would pay $10,124 in school taxes for the 2021-22 fiscal year, or an increase of about $176 over this year.
“The budget that the board is going to tentatively approve is a budget that returns us to normal,” Interim Superintendent of Schools Barry Galasso said. “Our ‘A’ plan next year is to be full-time, in person, for all of our students.” Galasso said the district schools will have regular instruction in person, full time, in September. The budget also funds summer programs for students, including recreational activities and other activities that will bolster social and emotional wellness. Students will have opportunities to reunite and socialize before September, Galasso said.
The school district received $900,000 in COVID-19 aid last year and is expecting another $2.1 million. The district has a $3.3 million surplus.
One unknown factor that could impact the budget is health insurance premiums. District staff members are still working to negotiate better rates with an insurance broker for the next fiscal year, officials said.
The school board voted 8-0-1 to approve the tentative budget. Board member Betsy Baglio abstained. Mercer County Superintendent of Schools will now review the proposed 201-22 budget plan. After county officials review the budget, the school board will hold a public hearing on April 27 and vote on a final budget.