Education

Berkeley Heights Board of Education Approves Tentative Budget

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Superintendent Judith Rattner, left, and Board Secretary/School Business Administrator Donna Felezzola present the tentative 2013-14 school budget at the Board of Education meeting on Thursday night. Credits: Deb Dawson
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BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The Berkeley Heights Board of Education unanimously approved the tentative budget for the 2013-14 school year at its meeting on Thursday, March 7. The budget now goes to the county superintendent of schools. A public hearing will be held on March 27 at 7 p.m. at Columbia Middle School.

The total budget less debt service is $44,100,907, a 2.6 percent increase over the 2012-13 budget. The amount to be collected through taxes is $36,188,642. That is a 2 percent increase over the current year’s budget. Last year, the amount to be collected by taxes decreased by 1.8 percent. The tax rate is expected to go from $2.108 per $100 of assessed value to $2.111 per $100. The total impact on the average homeowner is expected to be about $6 per year. During the current year, the tax rate was reduced, with the average homeowner receiving a $17 reduction in the school tax.

The school board was expecting a $224,000 cut in state aid, but received exactly $1 more that it received last year -- $1,123,171. Items that had been cut from the budget prior to receiving the state aid figure, were added back in, including a technology consultant to help with the new iPad initiative at Governor Livingston.

Every student at Governor Livingston and every teacher in the district will have an iPad next year. There will also be an increased number of iPads at other schools. Educational applications for the iPads will be purchased as well. The total cost for the iPads will be $753,156, paid for over a three year period. The amount expected to be spent in 2013-14 is $251,052.

Other technology improvements include upgrades to the network infrastructure and the installation of fiber optics. The total amount to be expended for district routers and power over Ethernet and network switches is $170,874. A district wireless controller and 65 access points at Governor Livingston will cost $107,000. Internet and Inter-school connections will cost a total of $456,955 over a period of three years with the annual cost at $92,391. IPad applications will cost $30,000. Professional development to teach the teachers to use the iPads successfully is estimated at $15,000. And additional personnel for the technology initiative will be $68,000.

Much of the technology upgrade will be paid for by a withdrawal from the capital reserve of $375,164. It should be noted that about $375,000 was deposited into the capital reserve in the 2012-13 budget.

Also in the budget is an increase for instructional review (remediation) costs to get students ready for state tests; two new in-district special education programs – a new ADA program at McMillin and community-based instruction for Governor Livingston students; security and safety upgrades in the form of additional cameras and a change to all elementary school keys and doorknobs; and ongoing capital projects – largely classroom
upgrades and things to deal with health and safety issues. All of the foregoing will cost about $700,000.

Other new initiatives include changing to a rotate and drop schedule at Columbia Middle School and the implementation of new teacher and principal evaluation systems.

The district is also saving money. The installation of solar panels at the high school and Woodruff yields energy savings of four percent at the high school and 16 percent at Woodruff. Utility costs are expected to be further reduced by participating in cooperative purchasing programs. And, employee contributions to health benefits will save about $500,000 in the 2013-14 school year, increasing to $1 million the following year.

The cost per pupil in Berkeley Heights is $13,262 as compared to $13,946 statewide and $13,266 in New Providence, $13,450 in Madison and $14,292 in Summit.

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