Education

Board of Education Passes Budget with No Tax Increase

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Board of Education meets to pass the budget. Credits: Fran Sullivan
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ELIZABETH, NJ – The Board of Education voted unanimously to accept the budget for the 2017-2018, May 1, that shows no increase in property taxes for the second, consecutive year, despite a student increase of 553 students in the 2016-2017 and projected increase of 551 students in the upcoming school year.

The total budget is $508,763,850 and breaks down as follows: $403,212,970 or 79.3 percent for instruction; $16,379,662 or 3.2 percent for administration; $47,026,312 or 9.2 percent for operations and maintenance of plant; and $42,144,906 or 8.3 percent for other. The district spends $15,752 per student. It will be hiring 49 K-12 teachers for a total of $2,909,709. In addition, there will be four, new guidance counselors, one each for John E. Dwyer Academy, Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy, Thomas Edison Career & Technical Academy, and Admiral William F.Halsey Health & Public Safety Academy.   

The local amount raised by property taxes remains at $59.8 million, the same amount as the past two years. Overall costs are slightly reduced from $513 million to $505 million for the 2017-2018 school year, despite a shortage of $60 million from the state according to its own funding formula, the BOE announced.

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Commissioner Jose Rodriguez commented on the board’s ability to hold down taxes. “We have partnered with professionals who have shown us where to look for revenues in grants and rebates.”

In addition, according to BOE officials, the budget is able to remain balanced without a tax increase through economies made during the past two years including more than halving the costs of legal fees of the district, savings in benefit payments, and consolidation of some administrative positions.

Despite a flat budget and decreased state aid, the board is still able to open a new school that will house second through eighth-grade gifted and talented students of William F. Halloran School No. 22 who were previously housed at Monsignor Joao S. Antao School No. 31 on Bayway Avenue for the last five years. The four-story school, which scheduled to open in September 2017, is designed to educate about 890 students and will include 34 regular education classrooms, three special-education classrooms, six science labs and various other facilities.

The district is also opening two new 9th grade academies in September 2017. John E. Dwyer Academy’s 9th Grade Academy will be housed at Nicholas Murray Butler School 23 on Union Avenue and Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy’s 9th Grade Academy will be housed at the Frank J. Cicarell Academy across from City Hall. “These ninth grade academies are very important,” said Maria Carvalho, board vice president. “Our research shows that the drop-out rate is highest in the ninth grade. Since we instituted the academies, we have seen a significant decline.”

In addition, School No. 23, currently will be moved to the facility where Dr. Orlando Edreira Academy School School 26 on Westminster Avenue currently resides. School No. 23 will open in September 2017 as a STEM Academy. School No. 26 will be housed at Monsignor Antao School No. 31 and will expand its enrollment of the International Baccalaureate Program or Port of Entry (recent arrivals to the U. S) to 137 students and 150 pre-K students. “This is a population that is steadily increasing,” explained Carvalho.

The board also announced a modified extended day for grades 9 to 12 starting in September 2017. Beginning then, high school students’ day will start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 3:20 p.m. Pre-K students and K-8 students’ schedules remain the same: Pre-K, 8:20 a.m. to 3 p.m., and K-8 students, 8:15 a.m.to 3 p.m.

Budget goals for the new school year goals focus on mentoring first-year teachers, new teacher training, differentiated instruction, personalized learning environments, English Language Arts and mathematics training, including bilingual and special education, literacy training, among others. 

The board has also set Measures of Success Goals to be reached by 2020: 100 percent of graduate to meet the requirements to enter a two or four year college, technical school, or military service, and/or will hold a license or certificate to allow them to enter the workforce. The on-time graduation rate will be 90 percent (currently it is 81 percent), and the same percentage will enroll in at least on Advanced Placement course and maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher.

The complete budget report can be downloaded from the Board of Education website at www.epsnj.org by clicking on the Board of Education tab, then Budget Information.

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