BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The board of education has given the administration the green light to move forward with budget option number three for the 2017-2018 school year, which utilizes all the banked cap money from the 2014-2015 school year, and some of the money from the 2015-2016 school year.

Every year, the district approves a banked cap which, by state law, allows a district that has not exceeded the tax levy cap of 2 percent to bank the unused tax levy for use in any of the next three succeeding budget years.

If a district does not go to 2 percent in a given year, the money that would have been used to go to that cap is saved for a three-year period.

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Currently, the district has $562,087 banked from the 2014-2015 budget, $1,653,331 from the 2015–2016 budget and $60,611 from the 2016-2017 budget.

The first option presented to the board was to use only $416,714 from the banked cap in the 2014-2015 school budget, with the remaining $145,373 set to expire. The board eliminated that option at the Feb. 14 meeting.

The second option, Starrs said, would be to use all of the money from the 2014-2015 banked cap, rather than allowing any to expire. 

That would add a total of $562,087 to the budget.

Starrs said that, for Bridgewater only, that would increase the tax levy by 3.23 percent, or $121.62.

Starrs said he does not yet have the information from Raritan to calculate the tax levy increase, and these numbers could change anyway once the state aid numbers are released, probably Thursday.

The third option, Starrs said, takes all of the banked cap from the 2014-2015 school year, as well as some of the money from the 2015-2016 school year.

The district currently has $1.6 million banked from the 2015-2016 budget, and the third option proposes using $262,728 of it, in addition to all from 2014-2015, for a total of $824,615.

That option, Starrs said, will require a 3.34 percent increase in the tax levy for Bridgewater residents, or $127.38.

Starrs said they have broken down how the money will be used in the three categories in which they have determined they need to have permanent allocations each year to make up for past shortfalls. Those categories are technology, facilities and curriculum.

In option two, Starrs said, they are looking at allocating $1,214,000 for technology, $645,373 for facilities and $734,000 for curriculum.

In the third option, they are looking at fulfilling their technology goal with the appropriation of $1,315,000, plus $726,422 for facilities and $815,049 for curriculum.

The eventual goals, Starrs said, are to have $4 to $5 million allocated each year for facilities and $1.5 million for curriculum.

Option three, Starrs said, allows the district to fund more facilities projects through the general fund rather than the capital reserve, where money should be saved.

In addition, that option allows for more purchases for curriculum, including pre-kindergarten toolkits, Pasco Sensors for fifth and sixth grade science classes, seventh grade core novels at the middle school, additional resources for multiple disabled students and the offering of a digital fine arts two course at the high school.

The board members opted to give the administration the green light to move forward with the third option, allowing the use of more banked cap in the 2017-2018 budget.

“I am seeing very little difference to the taxpayer between the two,” board president Jill Gladstone said. “We want to take care of the three areas, (technology, facilities and curriculum).”

The board of education is expected to approve a tentative budget March 14, with a public hearing on the budget expected April 25.