BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ—A three-year contract providing for average salary increases of 2.7 percent 2.5 percent and 2.3 percent for 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively with the Berkeley Heights Education Association was approved on Thursday by the township’s board of education.

The agreement would increase the starting salary in all three years, increase the coaching/extra curricular stipend by 1.5 percent for all three years and provide tuition reimbursements of $100,000 for 2015 and $70,000 for 2016 and 2017.

New hires would be placed at a step on the salary guide based on their previous experience.

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Also, the pact calls for a $1,000 annual stipend to applied behavior analysis (ABA) paraprofessionals who have the registered behavior technician certificate and who work in an ABA classroom for half of the day.

Additionally, paraprofessionals would receive health benefits equivalent to 100 percent of the single point-of-service rate and, if they choose to increase coverage, the employee would pay 85 percent and the board would pay 15 percent of the cost.

Another facet of the agreement calls for reimbursement of support staff for courses taken from $750 to $1000.

In presenting the agreement, board president Doug Reinstein noted that the salary increases cited do not mean that every member of the education association would receive the stated percentage increase.

A salary guide presented by Reinstein at the meeting includes salaries ranging, for the first step of salaries for those with a bachelor of arts degree—$52,842—to the top step of salaries for those with a master of arts degree plus 30 credits—$90,000.

The salary guide allows for movement for both yearly increases, per the contract, and educational “jumps,” according to the board president.

In another action at the meeting, the school body approved a 2016-2017 budget that will result in a $7 reduction in property taxes on the average assessed home.

The budget includes a 2 percent increase in the general fund, from $38,458,663 to $39,727,836, and a 5.1 percent drop in debt service and an increase in ratables. This means the projected school tax increase on the average assessed home of $159 was offset by $166, resulting in the $7 drop in taxes.

The board also transferred $85,000 from the benefits account into capital outlay to cover more of the overall cost of previously-approved ROD grant projects.

The following will be accomplished through the budget:

  • Increasing world language and computer instruction in elementary schools.
  • Continuation of Fountes and Pinnell assessment kits at the elementary schools.
  • Increasing advanced placement and honors programs at Governor Livingston High School including environmental science, music theory and world language.
  • Introducing an honors track in world language at Columbia Middle School
  • Implementing an ABA class at Columbia Middle School - allowing the district to continue to educate students in-district
  •  Making technology infrastructure Improvements including: updates at Hughes, Mountain Park and Woodruff schools; purchasing 970 iPad Airs to replace iPads currently used by Governor Livingston students; Redistributing iPads from high school and continuing the 1:1 iPad initiative at Columbia Middle School to the sixth and seventh grade; increasing the number of iPads at Mary Kay McMillin ECC, Hughes, Mountain Park and Woodruff.
  •  Providing additional support for social and emotional needs of middle and high school students by increasing hours of the Child Study Team staff.
  •  Developing a mobile application for the district website along with website upgrades.
  •  Building improvements at the schools, taking advantage of ROD grants.
  •  Replacement of a 54-seat school bus and maintenance equipment.