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1.76% Tax Hike Proposed in Early School Budget

This is only a preliminary school budget, superintendent says.

The district is in the initial stages of budget preparation for the 2013-2014 school year, and it is currently considering a 1.76 percent tax levy increase if there are no additions or cuts to what was offered in this year’s budget.

“This also is reflecting state aid as flat,” said business administrator Peter Starrs in a presentation at Tuesday’s board of education meeting. “In the past, we have anticipated getting 80 percent [of the previous year’s aid], but this year we are doing flat state aid.”

The total budget, including state aid and other miscellaneous appropriations, Starrs said, is currently estimated at $1.39 million, a 2.88 percent increase over the 2012-2013 budget.

But Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder said that all these numbers are very preliminary.

“This is the first glimpse at a very early draft of the budget,” he said. “It is so early that we would call it an impartial budget at this point.”

Schilder said there will be five public presentations over the coming months, with an adoption expected in late March.

And goals for the budget, Schilder said, remain similar to ones expressed in previous years.

“We want to keep the tax levy as low as possible, maintain the quality of programs and appropriate staff levels while meeting state requirements,” he said. “We are interested in keeping class sizes at or less than board policy, and keep up with facility maintenance and improvements.”

As for enrollment for the coming year, Schilder said they are estimating, as of Oct. 15, that there will be about 113 fewer students in the district than this year, translating to about 108 fewer students in the kindergarten through fourth grades.

“That doesn’t automatically translate into a certain amount of teacher deductions,” he said. “But enrollment looks like it’s continuing to decline.”

Schilder presented a breakdown of how much could be cut or added from the budget based on what kind of tax levy increase the board is willing to commit to.

With adding and cutting nothing, the tax levy increase is set at 1.76 percent, Schilder said, while a 2 percent increase—the maximum allowed by the state—would allow for the addition of $285,475 of costs into the budget.

If the board opts for only a 1.5 percent increase, the administration will have to cut $316,259 from the budget; or $917,992 for a 1 percent tax levy increase; and $2,121,458 for a 0 percent increase.

With the budget as it stands at this moment, Starrs said, the tax levy is at $122,468,107. The budget also includes $9,149,043 in state aid, and $7,775,280 in other costs like facility rentals, fund balance and other items.

That makes a total budget of $139,392,430.

Schilder said there are several costs that are being considered for the 2013-2014 budget, but none have been finalized. The first, he said, is the replacement of the roof at John F. Kennedy Primary School for $850,000, and the replacement of the high school air conditioning unit in the boiler room for $425,000.

In addition, Schilder said, they are looking to spend $280,000 on wireless technology for the primary schools.

“That has been an initiative for years,” he said. “The high school, middle school, Eisenhower and Hillside are wireless already.”

Schilder said they are also currently budgeting for four floating teacher positions for all grades, as well as three floating positions for special education IEP compliance.

The former positions are to ensure that the classes don’t get too large.

“Sometimes we see we’re right on the cusp,” he said. “If we get two more kids moving in over the summer, we might get higher, and I am suggesting we have four floating positions in the budget just ready to go.”

“If we don’t need them, the money rolls into surplus,” he added.

As for the special education department, Schilder said, if they have a class composition that is right on the cusp of what the federal government allows and another child enters the district, they need another teacher.

“To have floating positions for possible child compliance issues, we think that’s important,” he said.

Other projected costs at this point, Schilder said, include $32,300 to add a bowling team to the high school, $45,000 for replacing the phone system at Adamsville Primary School, $15,000 for a new PA system at Bradley Gardens Primary, $125,000 for some repaving and $30,000 for additional security at the high school.

Click here for more details on the discussion of additional security at the high school.

There is also, Schilder said, $45,000 included for compliance with EE4NJ, particularly in terms of getting substitutes while teachers are in training.

And, Schilder said, there is $50,000 included for refurbishing the high school library.

“We are making it more like a college library,” he said.

“We see so much potential for the library, and we want to do something to get high school students excited,” he added. “The furniture is cold and not set up properly. When experts came in, they showed us another world, but of course that costs money.”

The next budget presentation will be held in late January.

Mike Umbris December 21, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Keep raising taxes.. These 'republicans' we keep electing love to spend just as much as the other parties. Blood from a stone, the answer can't be to keep raising taxes. Have some courage and stand up to unions and cut costs. A balanced budget is why we have professionals supposedly running the finances. It's a complete joke these 'administrators' make $150,000. Enough of this nonsense. Wake up Bridgewater.
Robert Young January 23, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Taxes in Bridgewater should not be raised especially on the Senior citizens who live on a fixed budget. Some seniors have never had or have not had students in school for the past 25 years. Tax the Temple and keep the taxes down on Seniors

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