BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Bernards Township school administrators on Monday night unveiled the 2019-2020 total budget of just under $105 million.

The operating budget shows an increase of slightly less than $2 million to bring it to $104.9 million in 2019-2020. That will mean a tax levy rise of 1.88 percent. About 5/6 of the budget is paid for by local property taxes that will total more than $87.1million in 2019-20.

The budget will be submitted to the county superintendent of education for review. The public hearing will come at the May 6 school board meeting.

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Staffing needs will be affected by declining enrollment (an expected 5,107, an estimated 177 fewer than the current year), student course requests that won’t be known until the first week in April, and individual plans for special education students.

Staffing additions will be offset by resignations and retirements.

Christine Gordon was hired Monday night as a fulltime American Sign Language teacher at Ridge High School for the next school year.

In addition to the sign language job, a district will need another English as a Second Language teacher, said Superintendent Nick Markarian. The district also plans to bring back a fulltime “instructional coach” and hire a fulltime dance and part-time theater teachers for William Annin Middle School.

Current programs and services will be sustained, according to Business Administrator Rod McLaughlin.

The budget is pressured by Special Education costs, McLaughlin said. Expenses go up almost 6 percent, or more than $850,000, mostly due to greater services for existing students. The district anticipates a drop in revenue in the form of tuition from other schools that had paid to send their students to Bernards classes.

State aid is increasing by $470,965 over the last school year to reach $4.67 million. That is less that 5 percent of the total budget.

The capital budget continues work $1.6 million worth of projects that include replacement of a curtainwall, ventilation and expanded air conditioning at the Middle School, and phase one of the replacement of 400 building doors in the district. About one-fourth of the money for capital projects will come from state grants.

Planned capital projects:

  • Enhanced main entrance lighting and netting at baseball and soccer fields at Ridge High;

  •  New playground equipment at Mount Prospect School;

  • Stage lighting at Cedar Hill School;

  • Fencing replacement at Liberty Corner School, and

  • New exhaust fans for locker rooms, and ceiling fans for the cafeteria, at William Annin Middle School.