BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan board of education approved its tentative 2020-2021 school budget, although several more steps are required before the ratification of the final budget.

The total base budget for next year comes out to $172,460,811. The general fund accounts for $164,939,279, along with $2,012,125 for the special revenue fund, plus $5,509,407 for the debt service fund.

The total tax levy for the tentative budget is $152,326,666, with the general fund making up $146,817,259 and the debt service fund again at $5,509,407.

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According to business administrator Peter Starrs, there is a 2 percent difference between the tax levy for the tentative 2020-2021 school budget and the 2019-2020 school budget.

State aid for next year is set at $11,567,020, as compared to $10,566,269 for this year. The total budget for next year is 2.25 percent higher than this year’s $161,309,758.

“It’s a shade under a $165 million budget,” said Starrs.

The district has no adjustment waivers to rely on for next year, and also has no banked cap to apply to next year’s budget, after using it all in previous years.

Starrs said that, in the budget, regular education takes the biggest piece of the pie, at over $50 million, with special education garnering over $26 million, and benefits encompassing almost $29 million. Support services take up almost $17 million, followed by operations/maintenance ($13.4 million), administration ($12.3 million) and transportation ($10.4 million).

Concerning the tax rate calculation for next year, in Bridgewater, the average assessment comes out to $448,933. The school tax rate is around 1.384, a decrease of .93 percent.

School taxes come out to about $6,214, or a decrease of $12.96 per $100,000 of assessment.

The tax rate picture is somewhat different in neighboring Raritan. The average assessment there is calculated at $320,525, with the school tax rate increasing by 4.68 percent to about 1.446.

School taxes are calculated at around $4,637, or an increase of $64.75 per $100,000 of assessment.

Starrs added that the district has not yet received its valuation numbers from the county, with the numbers coming from the tax assessor. Some extraordinary aid is also anticipated.

Starrs noted that the physical size of the district has not changed in the last year, although enrollment is down about 26 pupils in all, with comparison of October 2019 enrollment figures to those of October 2018.

Starrs reiterated that permanent allocations for facilities, technology and curriculum have been maintained in the current budget, although not all of them were funded at 100 percent.

Among the projects for facilities is the roof replacement of Building 200 at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

“Hopefully we will see that awarded (soon),” said Starrs.

Also on the list of district upgrades is the extension of the VOIP communications system, which is currently only available at Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School.

Assistant superintendent Karen Jones added that the district continues to perform program evaluations.

“We’re looking at textbooks for world languages and mathematics, and also curriculum writing and new projects, in multiple areas,” she said, “plus proposal developments, to teach new curriculum.”

As for future steps regarding the 2020-2021 budget, Starrs said the tentative budget will be submitted to the county for its approval. Discussions in the district regarding the budget will continue, with further input from both the board and the public.

The final pieces in the process will be a public hearing on the budget and an expected final adoption in late April, likely April 28.

The school board unanimously approved the 2020-2021 tentative budget.