Dear West Morris Regional High School Community:
Please remember to vote on November 8. The ballot includes the following question put to the voters by the West Morris Regional High School District Board of Education:
“Shall the West Morris Regional High School District’s annual and special appropriations be apportioned on the following basis: 50% on each municipality’s equalized valuation allocated to the West Morris Regional High School District as provided by state law and 50% on the proportioned number of pupils enrolled from each municipality on the 15th day of October of the pre-budget year?”
If approved, this would change the funding of annual and special appropriations (more simply put, the District’s budget) from the current formula based 100% on each municipality’s equalized valuation.
The attached presentation, which is also available on the District website, is provided to inform your decision. Most of it is self-explanatory, however, a couple of items may benefit from further discussion.
Some basic background provides context for the ballot question. 5 municipalities participate in the two high school District. With only a few exceptions, West Morris Mendham High School is dedicated to the Chesters and Mendhams, which in the current year send 51.2% of the Districts’ students and pay 65.95% of the taxes necessary to run the District. Likewise with few exceptions, West Morris Central High School is dedicated to Washington Township, which in the current year sends 48.8% of the Districts’ students and pays 34.05% of the taxes necessary to run the District.
The current 100% equalized value formula was mandated by a state law adopted in 1975. Prior to that, and dating back to the District’s formation in 1958, the district’s budget was funded based 100% on the proportioned number of pupils enrolled from each municipality.
Pages 9-12 of the presentation contain charts that will give you a qualitative view of the potential tax impact of changing the funding formula. They should not be viewed as providing a statement as to what you will actually pay. This is because your actual taxes will depend on three variables that we can not predict with certainty: (1) number of students; (2) equalized property values and (3) district spending. For this reason, the charts only provide the dollar impact for prior years, for which each of the variables is known. These prior year charts show what would have happened if the new formula had been applied in those years.
Looking forward to years 2017-2020, the charts only provide the percentage of district funding (“% Regional Tax” in the last column) that might be paid by each municipality if the number of students currently in each of the sending K-8 districts arrive at the high school in exactly the same percentages as currently exists in the 5th through 8th grades. The actual numbers may be close, but it is highly unlikely they will be exactly the same. As a result, the calculation of each town’s % Regional Tax should be viewed as illustrative and not absolute.
The best way to look at the charts for years 2017-2020 is to compare your town’s % Regional Tax for the Current Formula of 100% Equalized Value in the top chart on page 7 of the attachment to future years % Regional Tax. Assuming (1) the 5th through 8th grade student populations accurately predict the percentage of student from each town in the high school in a given year, (2) equalized property values hold steady and (3) the district’s spending is unchanged, in any year in which your town’s % Regional Tax is greater than its 2016 % Regional Tax, you will pay more tax than you will in 2016. Likewise, in any year in which your town’s % Regional Tax is less than its 2016 % Regional Tax, you will pay less tax than you will in 2016.
The funding formula has been a source of controversy for many years, however, the Board takes no position on the ballot question other than to urge you to please vote on November 8.
Robert O. Strobel, President
West Morris Regional High School District Board of Education