BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School Board of Education approved a $150 million budget for the 2017-2018 school year Tuesday, with a 3 percent increase over the 2016–2017 budget.
Much of that increase comes from the board’s decision earlier this year to use banked cap money from both the 2014–2015 school year and the 2015–2016 year.
The budget is set at $150,620,857, a 3 percent increase over the 2016-2017 budget of $146,226,814.
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.
The 2017-2018 budget includes the $562,087 banked from the 2014-2015 budget and $262,728 from the 2015-2016 budget, for a total of $824,615 extra dollars in this year’s budget.
With that, the district is looking at a 3.54 percent increase in the tax levy over the 2016-2017 budget.
In Bridgewater, for an average assessed home at $426,854, the tax rate is set at 1.415, or an increase of $24.37 over last year per $100,000 of assessment.
In Raritan, for an average assessed home at $319,815, the tax rate is set at about 1.362, or an increase of $40.34 per $100,000 of assessment.
Business Administrator Peter Starrs said that new to the budget this year is about $1 million in special education expansion costs, including a pre-kindergarten teacher, multiple disabled classroom teacher and more.
In addition, another $1.2 million is being allocated for additional staff, including a high school math teacher and an assistant superintendent.
As for the assistant superintendent position, Superintendent of Schools Russell Lazovick said it is part of a need for consistency in the Wade building, as well as a need to have more oversight for security in the schools.
“The county is moving to a single system, and that is going to be a lot of work, I want this person to take point on that,” he said. “It is the amount of work it takes to make sure we do everything we can to make sure the buildings are safe.”
Starrs said they took a different approach to the budget this year with regard to permanent allocations for facilities, technology and curriculum, something that has been discussed over a number of meetings since the beginning of budget discussions.
For facilities, the district is looking to eventually allocate $3 to $4 million in the budget, and this year they will begin with $726,422.
The plans are for replacement of the roof at the 100 building at Bridgewater-Raritan High School; replacement of roof top units at the 900 building at BRHS; a re-wiring project at the 300 building at BRHS; paving improvements at Hamilton Primary; technology back end equipment; and gym dividers at Eisenhower Intermediate and BRHS.
As for technology, Starrs said, this budget fully funds that at $1,315,000.
The budget includes money for replacements of equipment, namely primary computer labs, Chromebooks, teacher devices and projection devices.
Finally, the district is looking to allocate $1.5 million per year for curriculum, and this budget is a step toward that with $815,049.
Assistant Superintendent Daniel Silvia said the budget supports the five-year program review for curriculum and instruction, part of a comprehensive review to make sure curriculum is up to date.
“We are also investing in professional development for teachers, instructional software for students and curriculum alignment,” he said.
There was no discussion from the public during a public hearing on the budget, and it was approved unanimously by the board.