BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Comments and questions about the upcoming year’s budget for schools will have to be directed electronically when the Bernards Township Board of Education meets “virtually” to adopt the spending plan Monday night.

The school board has introduced a $107 million budget that increases by 2.2 percent over the current year. The public hearing is part of the board meeting planned to begin at 7 p.m. Monday, May 4.

The public can connect to the livestream of the meeting by following instruction at  http://www.bernardsboe.com. Questions can be submitted by e-mail to BTConnect@bernardsboe.com or texted to 908-292-3047. Use “public comment” as the email subject or start of a text message.

Sign Up for Basking Ridge Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Business Administrator Rod McLaughlin described the proposed budget March 16 in a presentation that can be found under “board presentations” of the Board of Education section of the school website. McLaughlin will likely review the budget again Monday and Superintendent Nick Markarian is expected to summarize staffing considerations.

The superintendent said in an email this week that there will some “some contraction due to lower enrollment.”

The district estimates there will be more than 100 fewer students in the 2020-21 year – bringing the number to just more than 5,000 – in the four elementary, one middle and one high schools.

The budget also assumes receiving state aid of $5,298,378, or $631,756 than the current school year. The state must adopt its budget by June 30, and the spending plan could change in light of expenses and loss of revenue from complications of dealing with the coronavirus.

Markarian described to the Board of Education on Feb. 27 how many class sections in each grade are projected to be needed for the school year starting in September.

Declining elementary grades enrollment may create staffing adjustments, he said. Kindergarten enrollment – often a fluid situation through the summer – must be watched closely, he said.

In an email in March, Markarian said “some constriction” could be handled “perhaps simply through folks retiring and not being replaced.”

The school estimates a 1.89 percent increase in local property taxes. Bernards Township's tax rate for 2019 was $2.034 for each $100 of property assessment, with nearly two-thirds of the total tax bill going to schools.

Township records say the assessment for the average residential home in the current year is $611,873.

The budget assumes students and staff will be back in school buildings, and not learning electronically at home, as the district has operated since March 16.

“The budget is built on an assumption of full normal operation,” Markarian said. “Until we know differently (and we don’t), this is what we feel is best.”

For now, plans for the major capital projects of renovations of science labs at the middle school and the rebuilding of the Ridge High School cafeteria remain changed, the superintendent said.