BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Residents saw the tentative budget for the 2019-202 school year last week. The $51,039,288 budget is $1,302,387 higher than the previous year’s budget.

For the owner of the average home in the township, the school tax portion of their property tax bill will go up $189 this year, the equivalent of $15.75 a month, according to Business Administrator Donna Felezzola.

There is no money included in the budget for the proposed updating of the media centers or the full day kindergarten program which was discussed earlier in the meeting.

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Interim Superintendent Richard Noonan and Felezzola made the budget presentation at the March 14 meeting of the Board of Education. Noonan provided an overview of what programs and goals were being supported by the budget. Felezzola provided an overview of the changes in the budget, including comparisons of the expenses and revenues from the 2018-2019 budget to the 2019-20 tentative budget.

Watch the video to see the budget presentation, or read below for a synopsis of the presentation. A copy of the slide presentation can be found on the district’s website here

Noonan said the budget “reflects our priorities as a school community.”  The class sizes continue to be “reasonable” under this budget, and the budget supports a “solid range of student counseling and support services.” There are new curriculum offerings – a new elementary writing curriculum, new STEM electives at Columbia Middle School (CMS) and a new STEM Academy path at Governor Livingston High School (GL) and continued implementation of the elementary math program, he said.

Felezzola said the proposed budget has a spending increase of 2.6 percent. There will be 40 fewer students in the district. Enrollment is increasing at Mary Kay McMillin (MKM) and decreasing at CMS, which has resulted in the district adjusting its staffing levels.  

The budget provides for some capital maintenance projects, "classroom ceiling replacement at the high school and paving, drainage and curbing at all the schools, roof repairs and maintenance" at MKM, Mountain Park and GL, and outdoor lighting projects at all the elementary schools, plumbing upgrades at the high school and some door replacement, she said.  That’s about $380,000 in capital improvements.

Shared services with the township for vehicle repairs and to improve the fields has saved the district money. The use of cooperative purchasing of supplies, services and utilities have created efficiencies, she said. Lease purchasing will be used for the acquisition of a 54-passenger bus, maintenance vehicles, technology servers at all schools are being replaced and some computers in the classroom.     

The cost of regular instruction is the district’s biggest expense – $16.4 million. That number covers all the classroom expenses, salaries, supplies, text books, purchase services and is a 0.7 percent decline from the previous year, because a lease purchase agreement ended and the cost came off the books.

Other large increases are:

Employee Benefits at $9.7 million – up 4.6 percent, which reflects an increase in pension contributions and health benefit premiums.

Administrative costs at $4.2 million – up 6.4 percent because of the increased cost of professional services.

Tuition for out of district placements for special education students at $1.9 million is up 15.2 percent, in part because tuition costs are not controlled for these schools as they are for public schools and because there are two additional out-of-district placements projected for next near.

Construction costs have dropped 12.3% to $381,000

The district does receive some revenue, the bulk of which comes from the tax levy, which will increase $1.1 million. That is an increase of 2.75 percent, including the $310,736 from the district’s banked cap which will be used.

Other revenue includes $600,000 from the fund balance – money left over from the previous year’s budget; $5.6 million in tuition from Mountainside students, from the district’s special ed programs, including its Deaf and Hard of Hearing prog, its pre-school program where parents pay tuition, and parents who pay tuition to have children come to the Berkeley Heights schools, she said.

There is also miscellaneous revenue of $500,981 from rent, interest and fees and State Aid of $1,7 million.

All told the budget comes in at $51,039,288, an increase of 2.6 percent.

The General Fund has increased from $41,431,500 to $42,570,866, a change of 2.75 percent. Debt Service is down 0.37 percent to $1,616,184. The total to be raised through taxes is $44,187,050. Which is the 2.63 percent change from the previous year. Owners of the average home will pay an additional $189 a year or $15.75 per month to support this budget over last year's budget.

The board approved the tentative budget on March 14. It will go the County Superintendent to review and, if approved, the board is expected to adopt it on April 25.