BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Bernards Township school leaders have rescheduled their March 9 meeting next month to Monday, March 16, to allow for more time to make final revisions to the 2020-21 budget.

The Board of Education is now set to meet on March 16 to adopt a preliminary budget at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Ridge High School.

NJ Governor Phil Murphy is set to deliver his budget address to the state legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Two days later, schools should learn how much state aid they should expect – a critical piece to work into the preparation of next year's school budget, school officials said.

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Formal 2020-21 school budget hearing anticipated for early May

By Friday, March 20, districts are then required to submit an itemized budget to the executive county superintendent of schools. A formal public hearing will come in early May, school officials say.

The current year budget is $104.9 million, of which $97 million goes for operating expenses. Local property taxes pay for $87.1 million to support the operating budget.

Last year the district benefited from a $471,000 increase in state aid over the previous year.

Superintendent Nick Markarian said on Feb. 9 that two major capital projects are being factored into the budget.

He said the district aims to seek bids by the middle of September to build a brand-new kitchen, estimated to cost $2.9 million, for Ridge High School, located at 268 S. Finley Ave. in Basking Ridge.

The kitchen, which will be enlarged and feature new ovens, refrigerators, stoves and other kitchen equipment, is a necessary part of a plan to restructure the high school day.

The other major facilities project is the renovation of science classrooms at William Annin Middle School at 70 Quincy Road. That project is projected to be done in the summer of 2021.