Higher Debt Payment Causes Loss of Eisenhower Paving
The board of education introduced its budget Tuesday.
The board of education introduced its $139 million school budget Tuesday with only one small change since it was last discussed—the elimination of paving at Eisenhower Intermediate.
This change was made because of a change in the state aid numbers.
Although the district will be receiving $9,087,358, the same it received in the previous school year, there is an increase in assessments on the district, eliminating $80,000 from its aid.
This is the School Development Authority Debt Assessment, which reduces the aid the district will receive.
According to business administrator Peter Starrs, years ago they received grants from the state for $9 million, and the state is now assigning a share of principal and interest that it had to provide.
Last year, Starrs said, the district was charged $148,000, and this year the costs increased to $228,000, which lowers the state aid by about $80,000.
“That is more than 50 percent more,” he said. “We have to show that in the expenditure side, so we reduced Eisenhower to show that.”
Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder said they will still be doing paving at Bradley Gardens Primary School, because its condition is much worse.
Board member, and chair of the finance committee, Jeffrey Brookner said the committee discussed what to do about that cut, with the four items in consideration being cutting the newly funded high school bowling team from the budget, eliminating one of the four general education floating teachers, rolling the cut into the tax levy, or eliminating the paving at Eisenhower.
“The committee chose to take the paving out, and then the remaining $5,000 is rolled into the tax levy,” he said.
Aside from this change, Schilder said, the budget remains the same from the most recent presentation that showed a $139,515,108 budget with a 1.86 percent tax levy increase.
The total budget itself has increase by 2.79 percent over the previous year because of additional surplus funds to be used.
“We don’t have to raise the tax levy by 2.79 percent because of the allocation of surplus, so surplus is a good thing,” Schilder said. “We can apply it to the budget so the tax levy does not have to be increased further than that.”
From there, Schilder said, there are some additions the budget, although, except for the elimination of Eisenhower paving, they have not changed since the last presentation.
“A number are facilities issues,” he said. “We are trying to keep up with those issues, you don’t want that getting away from you.”
This includes the replacement of the roof at John F. Kennedy Primary School, replacing the high school heating and cooling unit and finishing an initiative to make the entire district wireless.
An additional $230,000 is still being used for an extra school resource officer and two more security personnel at the high school, as well as enhancements to the doors for security purposes.
“We took a long hard look with the police officers in Bridgewater and Raritan,” Schilder said. “It is a campus, and very unusual for high schools and difficult to make secure. We think a staff of five versus two is very appropriate for the high school given the open campus layout.”
One resident questioned whether there was ever additional security considered for other schools besides the high school.
Schilder said that, in discussions with the police departments, it was determined that having officers at the high school because of the open campus is most important.
But, Schilder said, they have changed protocols at the front door.
“We make sure people are identifying themselves, and have changed the door locking hours,” he said. “We have tightened that substantially.”
In addition, the budget keeps the planned seven floater teacher positions, three to be used for continued special education compliance, and four to be used to reduce class sizes.
“We are looking at the remaining classes that are in the high 20s, and applying those positions to reduce them,” Schilder said. “We are applying them early enough so we capture this as part of the scheduling process.”
“If needed, we have these positions,” he added. “We can’t tell where they would be devoted, but it will be where we have high class sizes. I don’t anticipate we will need them in the primary schools because of declining enrollments.”
As for special education, Schilder said they are bound by state rules, and if there are more than a certain number of students in a class, they are required to get another teacher and split the students up.
If these positions are not filled, the funds that were set aside roll over into surplus.
Resident Howard Teichman said he is still not sure these funds are necessary.
“I think further attention and possible reduction should be given in terms of floater positions,” he said. “Perhaps two or three should be further scrutinized and perhaps taken out of the budget.”
“I agree that surplus is a good thing, but it is also a bad thing because taxpayers have been taxed for that a year before it is necessary,” he added. “The cuts that would result from the floater positions in terms of the tax would not be significant, but would be more symbolic in my opinion. This is the second year we do not get to vote on the budget, so I think it behooves the board to be more vigilant because the board is now the final vote.”
Finally, the rest of the additional funds are being used for the continued high school refurbishing, technology for EE4NJ compliance, a new PA system at Bradley Gardens Primary, a new phone system at Adamsville Primary and a new bowling team at the high school.
A public hearing and possible adoption of the budget will be held March 21.