UPDATE: The school budget was approved by voters by a wide margin 134-32.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–For the third time in history, New Brunswick citizens will vote in a referendum on the $198 million budget for the city school district.
Registered voters can vote in today's school election at their regular polling locations between 7am and 9pm.
The budget, and in particular the $27 million to be raised from local property taxes, is being put to city voters in the form of a ballot question.
As we reported, the city's taxable property, or "ratables," increased for the "first time in a long time," according to city Business Administrator Thomas Loughlin. Accordingly, the Board of Ed expects to raise slightly more than it did last year through taxation, $28.6 million, up from $28.0 million the year before.
In each of the past two years, city voters overwhelmingly approved the tax levy as part of a similar overall budget.
Previously, a joint committee consisting of the Mayor, members of the City Council, and the Board of Education, would set the budget. Voters decided to institute elections for the Board of Ed, which comes along with the public vote on the budget.
This year, however, all three incumbents face no opposition in the election, and expected to win.
All of the board's nine members support the budget, said Superintendent Richard Kaplan, who is preparing to leave the district at the end of the school year.
The Board of Education anticipates $123.1 million in state aid from the New Jersey government, and another $6.0 million in federal aid.
If more voters cast ballots in support of the budget than against it, it will be formally adopted. If not, the budget will be sent to the City Council for further cuts to be made.
The budget estimates that the city's schools will serve a population of 8,100 "regular" students full-time, and 1,243 "special education" students. Both numbers are higher than in the previous year's budget.
According to the budget, the average cost per student will be $16,757, down from $17,453 in the prior year's budget.
For the 2015-2016 academic year, the nine-member Board of Education proposed $68.0 million in general expenses, those that fund the day-to-day activities of the district, up from $67.0 million the year before.
Capital expenditures, on the other hand, constitute long-term investments that a school district makes such as investing in new buildings and infrastructure, laboratory equipment, vehicles, or laptop computers.
There is almost no money appropriated for capital expenditures in the budget for 2015-2016, just $135,000, down from $3.8 million the year before.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.