BARNEGAT, NJ - Inclusive of board members, approximately thirty people attended the Barnegat Board of Education’s virtual meeting on Tuesday. One of the main agenda items included approval of the nearly $68,5M budget for the 2020-2021 school year.

Stephen Brennan MBA, CPA, and Business Administrator/Board Secretary led the budget presentation. Other members of the district’s administrative team joined in to provide information regarding proposed allocations.

According to Brennan, the district is 65% locally funded, as state aid continues to decrease. Local taxpayers assume most of the burden for local education.

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“We’ve seen minimal increases in state aid,” explained Brennan. “This means it makes it a little more difficult because the burden shifts to the local taxpayers. Obviously, our costs outpace our state aid.”

Next year’s budget assumes some of the expenditures due to the school district’s reorganization to a grade banding model. School administrators anticipate costs with some physical building configuration.  Facility improvements unrelated to the reconfiguration are also part of the budget for next year.

Jim Barbiere, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, provided insight concerning budget items related to academics. While textbooks and instructional resources are considered a recurring cost, the district has strategic goals related to other programs. The elementary band program, as well as the chorus program, will both expand next year.

The Gifted and Talent program will also grow in the 2020-2021 school year with the addition of another teacher to support the district.  Up until now, only one Gifted and Talented teacher circulated among all the schools.

As technology continues to be a critical part of education, the school district’s budgetary approach comes from a few directions.  The budget includes line items related to cybersecurity, as well as curriculum enrichment software.

“In this difficult time, when learning is remote, we have built a strong foundation in this district with software and online resources that the kids can use,” Barbiere said.

The School District’s Director of Student Services, Dan Gunderson, spoke on initiatives associated with special education next year. He acknowledged that special education makes up a good part of the budget.

“We always try to enrich the programs that we do have,” shared Gunderson. “By adding special education master teachers, this should help us meet our strategic goals.”

During the public comment section of the meeting, Barnegat resident and parent Chris Sharpe asked if any of the line items related to the reconfiguration would be further detailed on the budget.

“The things we talked about as far as the changes are things like the science labs at Horbelt,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Latwis. “You’ll see the exact dollar figures in Buildings and Ground motions because we actually contract that work.”

Other work associated with the change in grade banding model includes the changes to the Pre-K toilets. “This will be a multi-year initiative,” Latwis continued. “The expenses for that come directly from the Pre-K funding we receive.”

The Horbelt School will also have some changes to make it more like an intermediate school. As a result of the shutdown, moving costs may be reduced if the work can be done by internal staff.

Board member Sean O’Brien expressed concerns that estimates were used for line items related to the reconfiguration costs, administrators’ contracts, and teachers’ contracts.

According to Brennan, the allocations were made on reasonable estimates based on trending. Using administrators’ contracts as an example, three percent was used in projections.

“The reconfiguration was based on not having to use banked cap,” stated O’Brien. “Here, we are using almost half a million dollars.”

Brennan explained that the banked cap was not utilized to support reconfiguration, but for personnel costs. Broken down by category, 54.2% of the expenses for the 2020-2021 budget are related to district salary. This does not include a 24.5% allocation for employee benefits.

To keep the numbers down, the district plans to make use of banked cap, surplus/fund balances and monies held in reserve.  As detailed in the slide, the monthly impact of the new budget for a home with an assessed value of $180K will be $3.50.  Homes with an assessed value of $325K will experience a $6.17 monthly increase.

The budget passed by a majority, with two no votes from Sean O’Brien and Robert Sawicki. Richard Quelch abstained.