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posted: 3/24/2013 5:00 AM

Endorsement: Yes on revamped Millburn Dist. 24 tax proposal

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In November 2011, voters in Millburn Elementary District 24 soundly defeated a tax referendum to generate about $2 million to replace lost state funding. Since then, state funding cuts have worsened, prompting officials to return to voters this year. They come with a smaller request and a list of belt-tightening efforts as proof of financial responsibility. District 24 wants permission to push the property tax levy increase limit from 5 percent to 12 percent for one year, generating $900,000. That's about half of the last ballot issue, but it sets a new base for future collections. It would cost the owner of a single-family house with a $200,000 market value an extra $228 in the first year. Officials say they have tightened finances, including reducing expenses by $3.3 million over four years and requiring a balanced budget. They saved $300,000 by creating grade-level schools, adjusted staff salaries, boosted class sizes and refinanced bonds. Approval, they say, would allow some class size reduction and block elimination of "special classes," such as art and music. Despite being on the state's financial watch list, student test scores remain high. District 24 has taken significant steps to address funding cuts and maintain a quality education for its 1,450 students. It now needs some help from taxpayers. We say YES to the referendum.

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