Presentation of 2017-18 School Budget, Appointment of New Board Member Due at Monday's BOE Meeting

Board member Priti Shah, 3rd from right, resigned from the BOE in April 2017. A board member to fill the last year of her term is due to be chosen on May 8. Credits: By Linda Sadlouskos

BERNARDS TWP., NJ - A presentation on the proposed $101,171,316 school budget for 2017-18 - to be followed by a possible approval vote - and also the selection and swearing in of a new board member to replace Priti Shah are both on Monday's agenda for the Bernards Township Board of Education.

The agenda for Monday's meeting is posted on the Bernards Township school website. the meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Ridge High School Performing Arts Center, 268 S. Finley Ave., Basking Ridge.

School officials immediately began seeking applications from the community to fill Shah's seat on the board through the remainder of 2017 after Shah resigned suddenly effective on April 10. Shah had served on the board since she was elected in 2011, and cited "personal reasons" for her resignation, according to the school website.

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Monday's agenda said the applicant will be interviewed by the board at the beginning of the meeting. The successful candidate to fill the board vacancy is expected to be sworn in at the meeting.

The new board member will serve from May through the remainder of 2017, and would need to be re-elected in November in order to continue serving another term after the end of this year.

School budget could be adopted, tax impact to be presented

The proposed township school budget for next year's school year - if adopted by the Board of Education following a public hearing also scheduled for Monday night - would for the first time total more than $100 million.

Adding in all expenses, including debt payments, the proposed spending plan for operating six township schools is a proposed $101,171,316 for the school year beginning in September 2017.

That is a $2,456,558 increase over the total budget for the current school year, set at $98.7 million, according to the school's figures, already posted on the school website.

There is a proposed increase of $2,656,615 in the actual operating budget of $94 million planned for next year; however, that was offset by a $200,000 reduction in debt payments calculated for 2017-18, according to school officials.

The proposed budget would keep all current school programs and staff intact, school officials said. 

According to school figures, most of this year's budget increase ($1.86 million) is due to contractual obligations and other costs such as leave replacements and substitute costs.

Most of the remaining drivers behind the additional $797,026 increase include investments in technology hardware, transportation, the resurfacing of the track and Ridge High School and state facility tuition.

Staffing considerations will take into account enrollment shifts throughout the school system, according to school officials.

When the tentative budget was unveiled at the March 13 Board of Education meeting, Board Business Administrator Roderic McLaughlin said that most of the increase, shown as more than $1.8 million in the school's presentation, would be due to contractual salary increases.

The budget figures presented so far show that the remaining proposed budget increase of almost $800,000 would go for technology hardware, transportation, the resurfacing of Ridge High School's track and state facility tuition.

McLaughlin did not reveal the impact the proposed budget would have on the local school tax rate on March 13, or when questioned at subsequent meetings. He said the amount is below the 2 percent cap on annual tax levy increases, and said he would reveal the specific tax figures at the public hearing.

If next year's school budget is approved as proposed, local taxpayers will end up kicking in $83,751,502 towards the cost of the total budget. 

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