On the heals of Hurricane Sandy and a drop in Toms River's ratables base, residents asked that school administrators carefully plan their 2013-14 budget.
Toms River officials have said that the township's ratable base has suffered a drop of an estimated 20 percent because of the devastation left in Sandy's wake. That loss will mean less revenue to collect for municipal, county and school funding.
Some residents at the Board of Education meeting this week expressed concern that school officials
"I would not want to be in your shoes. I see Sandy's gift for 2013 is a tax hike," said resident Dennis Galante, who spoke during the meeting's public comment portion.
"How are you going to balance between the teachers, administration, staff, students and the taxpayers," Galante said. "I'm giving you a mandate as a taxpayer. I want to know how you're going to cut spending."
"There is a new reality out there," board President Ben Giovine said regarding the tax landscape following Sandy.
Township officials have said that they plan to appeal to the state for additional aid to help balance budgets after Sandy.
"I know that the school district has already been in contact with Toms River in what the township is looking at and what they're looking at from us," Giovine said.
Resident Nels Luthman, who noted that the district "does a good job trying to keep costs down," suggested that the Board of Education ask the state temporarily to divert funding that goes toward poorer and underperforming "Abbott districts" to Sandy-striken towns, Luthman said.
"I'm hoping that you'll be proactive in going after that money because the tax burden is going to be high on this town and we pay more than our fair share to districts throughout the state for over 30 years," Luthman said.
For the 2012-13 school year, the 18-school regional district is operating on a $204 million budget, a $4 million increase over the 2011-12 spending plan. Toms River received over $67 million, or about 33 percent of its funding, from state aid. Local property taxes made up nearly $133 million, or about 65 percent, of the $204 million in budget revenues.
Superintendent of Schools Frank Roselli said that the district is aware of the potential budgetary impacts and he hopes the public realizes how "efficient we are as a school district." The district's relatively low per pupil and administrative costs are evidence of that, according to the superintendent.
"We are efficient and we do look at cost very, very closely," Roselli said.
The municipalities of Toms River, South Toms River, Pine Beach and Beachwood each support the regional school district and changes to their ratables affect what they contribute to the school budget.
The state has yet to release the budget calendar for the school districts 2013-14 plans, said board member Joseph Torrone. Last year, the budget was approved in late March.
Torrone, who last year as a member of the public questioned whether the board was transparent enough in releasing budget figures, said that a new online system is in place which allows board members to review budget figures easily.
Residents with questions about the budget are invited to contact Business Administrator William Doering, Roselli said.