School Board Approves $214 Million FY 2024 Budget

TALKING NUMBERS – Schools Superintendent John Ravally describes the 2024 budget at the March 9 open Finance Committee meeting. (File photo.)

The Board of Education approved its $214 million spending plan for Fiscal Year 2024 at a special April 25 meeting.

The $213,803,051 budget is powered by a $164,387,049 tax levy for calendar year 2023, up $7,285,784 from calendar year 2023.

The calendar year 2023 tax rate was set at about $1.20 per $100 of assessed valuation, a decrease of about 6 cents from the CY 2022 tax rate of $1.25 per $100.

Still, the owner of a home assessed at the township average of $436,860 – up $44,563 from last year’s average assessment of $392,297 – will have a total tax bill of $2,611.36 for the last two quarters of 2023, an increase of $151.56 for those six months.

At a March 9 open meeting of the school board’s Finance Committee, school’s Superintendent John Ravally gave committee members a rundown of the considerations that went into the creation of the tentative budget, and district Business Administrator Luis Valencia broke down the tentative budget’s numbers.

One of the biggest challenges in creating the budget Ravally said, was making up for $3 million in grant funding that was connected to the Covid-19 pandemic, and which will not be repeated.

“Any recurring costs that we’ve been living off of using federal money, we have to get back into the budget,” he said. “You want to wean off of, if not get totally independent from, recurring costs for programs that you were formerly funding” through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grant, he said.

Ravally said the so-called ESSER grants were invaluable during the district’s shutdown. He said that without the grant, he did not know how the district would have afforded buying all of the Chromebooks it needed for students during the remote instruction period.

Ravally said a state mandate concerning health care will force an increase of about $3.2 million in that line item, and that transportation costs will increase by about $2 million.

“That’s not the kind of increase that we typically see,” he said. “That’s about a 10 percent increase. That’s a lot.”

“This is restoring transportation to where transportation was pre-pandemic, but it comes with a cost,” he said.

The District looks to spend another $1 million in an effort to recruit and retain quality teachers, a cost that Ravally said could change depending on negotiations.

The tentative budget includes about $1.1 million for a number of programs that administrators would like to see continued or added.

That includes continuing the Great Expectations Mentoring Program, Effective School Solutions at Elementary Schools, both of which programs were previously funded by grants; putting an additional safety officer at the two Middle School campuses and Franklin High School; contractual salary increases for Class III Franklin Township Police Department officers and for FTPD officers hired for outside events.

The tentative budget estimates $3 million for various professional development programs and for teacher recruitment and retention that were previously funded by the ESSER grants.

“It’s a big number because you have a lot of professional development,” Ravally said.

Other programs would address learning gaps, learning recovery, and learning acceleration, estimated at $746,000. This includes expanding the media center program in the elementary schools, expand the Franklin Middle School TV Production feeder program, new boys and girls volleyball teams at Franklin High School and tutorials in programs such as math and other STEM subjects.

“There’s very high interest at the high school to get involved with NJSIAAA volleyball,” Ravally said. “We are one of two schools in our conference that does not have a team. This will give our kids that same opportunity that 18 of our neighboring districts offer their students.”

The District has had a difficult time replacing foreign language teachers, and a third party which which it contracted did not really work pout, Ravally said. The tentative FY 2024 budget anticipates spending $30,000 on the “Foreign Language 4 Kids,” or FL4K program to bridge that gap, Ravally said.

“FL4K will make it easier for our teachers to teach rigorous program without having a background in World Languages,” he said.

The District is also taking part in a statewide pilot program for teaching Advanced Placement African-American Studies, as well as Honors Race, Gender and Equality programs.

“We are part of the pilot and we will be implementing this year,” Ravally said. He said the District needed a minimum of 20 students to sign up for it, and already has 58 students.

“We also know that the Board implemented a Race, Gender and Equity Course at the high school,” he said. “We had six or eight sections several years ago, we’ll have a lot more sections. Starting with the Class of 2025, everyone has to take a course equivalent to Race and Gender Equity.”

The budget allocates about $128,900 for programs to connect with the community, including an Invention Competition, website updates, a new mobile app, district video productions, translation services and the district newsletter.

There is also an estimated $1,757,750 allocation for “green initiatives.”

The biggest cost is upgrading HVAC units at the high school and Franklin Park school, a bill estimated to be $1,750,000. The rest are stipends for a dedicated energy manager, and for the district coordinator of school-based Green Teams.

The total estimated local revenue general fund for FY 2024 is $162,477,860, an increase of $4,579,336, or 2.9 percent from FY 2023 figure of $157,868,524. Local revenue includes the tax levy, surplus, special ed tuition, interest, withdrawal from the capital reserve fund and miscellaneous income.

The total of all state aid, called operating revenue, is estimated at $24,002,066, a $5.9 million increase from FY 2023’s figure of $18,065,168. That total is comprised of state aid, extraordinary aid and SEMI (Special Education Medicaid Initiative) Aid.

That creates a total estimated operating expense of $186,449,926, a $10.6 million or 6 percent increase over FY 2023’s figure of $175,933,692.

Add in the $19,492,120 in total estimated special revenue and $7,861,005 in debt service, and the district has estimated FY 2024 total revenue of $213,803051, an $7.9 million or 4 percent increase over FY 2023’s figure of $205,872,232.

Your Thoughts


Please Support Independent Journalism In Franklin Township!

No other media outlet covering Franklin Township brings you the depth of information presented by the Franklin Reporter & Advocate. Period. We are the only truly independent media serving the Eight Villages.

But we can only do that with your support. Please consider a yearly subscription to our online news site; at $37 a year, it’s one of the best investments you can make in our community.

To subscribe, please click here.

Other News From The Eight Villages …