By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – The Board of School Estimate Thursday, March 23 approved the school district’s 2023-2024 budget to educate 336, K-12 students. The board consists of the commissioners and school board President Catherine Horn and Vice-president Dr. Joel Frankel.
The $14,298,919 operating budget, up 5% or $695,530 from last year’s adjusted budget, includes no increase in the tax rate. A $61 million increase in assessed valuation of the city helped the district maintain a stable rate.
Officials said the district has maintained its $10,498,077 tax levy for the last five years, after dropping $13,331 from the previous five tax years. The tax rate will be 30.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation or $308 per $100,000. School taxes account for 19.5% of a property owner’s total tax bill.
District Business Administrator Melina Skwarek presented an overview of the budget, which maintains all educational programming, expands the district’s technology curriculum, and adds a new kindergarten classroom. Athletic programs will be expanded with the addition of baseball. The budget includes purchase of new technology, including Chrome Books and Smartboards.
The district will reserve $2,161,724 in fund balance, which is $634,780 more than last year’s amount.
The budget reflects a 15% increase in the cost of insurance and health benefits, 6.15% increase in salaries and educational supplies and textbooks, 25% increase in co-curricular and athletic programs, 6% increase in operations and maintenance, and a 29% increase in the cost of transportation due to adding another bus route.
Tuition for 32 Longport students will increase 14% or $124,412 to $1,027,812. The district sends 58 students to Atlantic City High School at a cost of $1,012,733. High school tuition payments to CharterTech, Atlantic County Institute of Technology, Cape May County Special Services and other private school placements bring the district’s total tuition expense to $1,311,208. Sixty-two students attend Ocean City High School and Mainland Regional High School “School Choice” lottery programs, which do not require tuition payments.
The district capital budget includes $175,569 for technology upgrades, $20,811 for roof and door repairs, and $50,000 for security upgrades.
The district anticipates continuing its policy of accepting non-resident students on a tuition basis. The district accepts applications for K-4 and will accept 18 students next year, up from 10 students this school year. Although no applications are accepted for middle school students, those who attend on a tuition basis in the lower grades automatically advance to the middle school. Non-resident tuition is $6,000 per student.
“We have space in K-4. This year, we posted the application March 1 and already five people expressed interest in filling out the application,” Superintendent Audrey Becker said. “That’s a little higher than we were last year. We get quite a few kindergarten applications, but we wait to see where our resident numbers are, so we don’t overfill our classrooms.”
The parents and children are interviewed to determine if their needs can be met before they are accepted, Becker said.
“If a child has needs we can’t accommodate without additional expense, but within reason, we politely decline them,” she said.
The district anticipates $62,000 in non-resident tuition, up from $26,000 last year.
Administrators addressed concerns in the community that the district should consolidate to one school or merge with Ventnor.
Becker said anyone who thinks the district has empty classrooms can reach out to the district for a tour.
“It’s an active, happy, productive place each day. We don’t have empty classrooms,” she said.
Mayor Michael Becker, who said he was attending his 38th Board of School Estimate meeting, commended district officials for providing students with a great education. He said reputation of the schools are one of the reasons people want to live in Margate.
Copyright Mediawize, LLC 2023