Berkeley Heights School District Receives $224,000 More State Aid Than Expected
Friday, March 1, 2013 • 7:26am
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Next year’s budget was discussed at the Feb. 28 Board of Education meeting, but the numbers changed that afternoon and were not able to be included. State aid is $224,000 more than expected.
The board intends to spend the increase, reintroducing several items that were deleted but needed, when state aid was expected to be lower. The final numbers for the budget will be introduced at next week’s meeting on Thursday, March 7. The bottom line is the tax rate is expected to increase minimally from $2.108 to $2.111 per $100 of assessed value. According to the school board, the tax increase on the average home will be $7.
As discussed on Feb. 28, the total proposed operating budget for 2013-14 is $43,830,144. That’s $294,789 more than the 2012-13 number, but there are many new initiatives included – a technology upgrade at Governor Livingston; an iPad initiative where in each student at GL will be getting an iPad as well as all teachers in the district; Columbia Middle School will change to a “rotate and drop” schedule; the teacher and principal evaluation
system is changing; more professional development will be offered regarding new state standards and the new technology teachers and students will be receiving; an increase in instruction review (remediation) is expected to help get students prepared for new state tests; two new in-district special education programs; security and safety upgrades; and capital improvement projects to maintain the buildings. Specifics regarding these initiatives, except the iPads, were not discussed at the meetings. The number of iPads to be purchased is about 1,300.
Some additional staff will be added to keep class size the same. This includes one sixth grade teacher at Columbia Middle School. A second grade teacher will be added at Thomas P. Hughes School. One new section of kindergarten will be added, which equates to .5 in staffing and two more people will be added to do instructional review across the district.
For special education, there will be two new program teachers and a half-time support person.
Support staff will add one technology technician (for all of the new computer equipment) and a part-time secretary for the central office.
The board will be drawing $375,164 from capital reserve to balance the budget, which is about what was deposited into capital reserve last year.
Superintendent Judith Rattner was asked to suggest items that might be put back into the budget when the new state aid numbers came in. Only $852,408 was expected, but $1,076,408 was received. These items will be discussed and added or not at the March 7 meeting. They include $15,000 more for professional development, $15,000 for technology – apps for the teaching staff and iPad apps; an increase of one math and one English SAT
prep class at the high school, four assistant coaches (two for soccer, one baseball/softball and one track); capital improvements at William Woodruff and Thomas P. Hughes schools; $75,000 in additional tuition for special education students that will need to be sent out-of-district; and, additional technology training for teachers through a technology consultant who will actually go into the classrooms.
Board member Denis Smalley said, “I’d like to use the $224,000 to offset the increase. I’d like to see a zero increase.”
Board member John Sincaglia, who is the finance committee chair, replied, “I understand where you’re coming from, but the (original) plan was shorting ourselves from what should have been an expectation in the first place.”
Smalley indicated he wants to insure teachers make use of the new technology they are being given.
Also at the meeting, the Columbia Middle School Girls’ Basketball Team was recognized by by resolution of the board for winning the Champions of Summit Tournament, and for its record of being undefeated for the past two seasons, with a 30-0 record.