BERNARDS TWP., NJ - The proposed township school budget for the 2017-18 school year - if adopted by the Board of Education following a public hearing scheduled for May 8 - 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.

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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. 

Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian said this week that there will be a "realignment" of the existing elementary teaching staff next year to address the concerns of parents who last month complained to the school board that class sizes are 26 students or larger for this year's third graders at the Oak Street School and fourth graders at the Cedar Hill School. Whether other hiring requests will be filled with new staff members remains to be decided, Markarian said in an email on Thursday.

Most of increase due to contractual salary increases

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.

No tax rate figures released yet

McLaughlin said he would reveal the impact the proposed budget would have on taxes at the public hearing on the budget scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 8 in the Performing Arts Center at Ridge High School, 268 S. Finley Ave. in Basking Ridge.

Promised state aid of $3,255,276 for the upcoming school year will remain the same as it was for this year, and within $200 of the amount it has been since the 2012-13 school year. School officials took pains to point out again that under the most recent school funding formula, last updated in 2008, the Bernards Township school district should receive $4.7 million annually in state aid. 

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.