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Christie Address 'Encouraging' for State Aid, District Says

The school district is anticipating no change in its aid this year.

Based on the information provided during Gov. Chris Christie's State of the State Address Tuesday, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District administrators said Tuesday that they believe aid will remain flat this year.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder said Tuesday that the commissioner interpreted the governor's comments as indicating that 378 school districts will get a funding increase. And from there, he said, no school's K-12 formula school aid will see a decrease for the 2014 fiscal year.

"But what that exactly means in terms of K-12 formula school aid, we need to wait and hear," he said. "But this is encouraging."

Board member Jeffrey Brookner asked whether there is a difference between state aid and K-12 formula state aid.

"That seems to be the question of the day," said business administrator Peter Starrs. "I interpret it to mean that we should be OK."

"But I have been wrong before," he added.

Starrs said there have been no more rumors about changes to the state aid and such, but they are moving forward, and should receive the exact numbers in the next day or so.

"We hope for the best," he said.

With regard to the budget, the district will hold a special meeting March 5 at 8 a.m. at the Harmon V. Wade Administration Building for those who have been unable to attend the evening meetings.

"For anyone who can't make the early presentations, it is early enough to swing by on the way to work since we don't have as many presentations as usual this year," Schilder said.

There will be another meeting—with a presentation identical to the morning one—and budget introduction March 5 at 8 p.m. at John F. Kennedy Primary School, followed by a public hearing and hopeful adoption of the budget March 21.

Resident Howard Teichman said he had a few concerns about the budget as it stands now, including the proposed floater positions for teachers as they are needed to handle overflow of special education students and other needs.

"I was a little surprised when there were 12 last year, that seemed like a lot of play in a budget to have," he said. "Seven is a little more reasonable, but it seems reasonable if the administration and board could cut that somewhat."

. Three of those positions, Schilder has said, are already probably going to be used to handle compliance with special education.

Cheryl Dyer, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, has said two more positions may be needed for additional classes in English and math at the high school.

Teichman said he believes there is already room in the budget if there is ever a great need to add another teacher or use the money.

"We always talk about what if the boiler goes out or something, but I don't know that the district has ever really had to scrape at the bottom of the barrel in any year," he said. "I don't think the situation ever really gets that dire."

Aside from the floater positions, Teichman said he is concerned about the possibility of the budget going all the way to a 2 percent tax increase.

"I think it's not necessarily reasonable to view 2 percent as the target, even if it's for something that's a good thing to have but not absolutely positively necessary," he said. "Maybe if we cut the floater positions, it could be set at 1.5 percent, and I think that's a reasonable middle ground for taxpayers and what the district needs."

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