FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - A slight decrease will be included in the Board of Education's preliminary 2017-18 school district budget. 

The decrease represents a tax rate of $1.465 per $1000 of assessed valuation for the calendar year 2017 vs. $1.472 per $1000 for 2016. 

As a result of the decrease, a home with an assessed value of $200,000 thousand would see a $14.81 drop in their school portion of property taxes, $400,000 comes with a $29.62 drop. The average home in Franklin Township is $318,033, and the drop for people assessed at that value would be $23.55.

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Superintendent Dr. John Ravally and Interim Assistant Superintendent for Business James Strimple presented the budget to the BOE Finance Committee and a handful of members of the community at the Franklin High School Library, Tuesday.

This year's total budget is $168.725,434 vs. last year's budget of $163,696,703 an increase of $5,028,731 (3.07 percent).

The total tax levy for 2017 will be $139,288,627 an increase of $5,028,731 over last year ($136,084,365) but will be offset by an increase in the township's assessed property valuation.

Last year assessed valuation came in at $9,246,202,748 and this year it will be $9,510,389,360 for a total increase of $264,186,612. 

Budget goals for 2017-2018 included - professional development, expansion of extra-curricular offerings, student safety, rezoning the district, utilization of capital reserve funds to target facilities revitalization, utilization of 2 percent spending growth adjustment, and anticipation of the utilization of unspent 2016-2017 general fund revenues. 

Ravally said supporting growing programs and preparing facilities for grade reconfiguration while staying within the revenue limits will be a challenge and has always been a challenge.

"We have flat state aid for five consecutive years, which is a defacto cut, and a 16 percent reduction in preschool aid which obviously is a cut," Ravally said. "And then an increase in expenditure of about 20% for charter school tuition ($9.8 million). So those are all things that make it really difficult for us to reach those goals."

Professional development is the first goal and comes with $140,700 cost. The goal will include a technology coach to enhance student's understanding of social media, and provide teachers with training on how to employ strategies that promote the use of technology so students can better hone their learning. 

The district's website will also be redesigned under this goal, and staff will get more training on the Genesis student information system, and teachers will get enhanced training on the use of the I-Ready on-line learning tool.

Teachers/staff members will also receive additional training for other school initiatives under the district's professional development goal. 

The second budget goal is to enhance and expand current extra-curricular offerings and comes with a $312,215 cost. Under the goal, gifted and talented would be expanded to grade 5, high school STEM elective offerings will be expanded, Saturday school will be created, Chromebook 1:1 initiative would be expanded to grade 6. 

The district's track program will see an increase in the number of assistant coaches for the middle and high school. 

Introduction to the "Knowing Science" elementary program is the most expensive program under the extra-curricular goal, coming in at a cost of $160,000. 

"It is a very hands-on program that fosters the scientific process, as well as STEM education, as well as problem-solving and critical thinking," Ravally said. "They are science kits, not science books, and kids actually dive in and get involved with creating different things supporting the topics they are studying." 

Ravally said the program replaces the need to buy piecemeal science kits and having people put them together.  

Goal three to expand efforts to keep students safe will cost $110,900 and will include technologies to ensure software protection for student laptops, enhanced communication to first responders, and security cameras throughout the district. 

Budget to support the restructuring and rezoning of the district will cost $640,446. The biggest expense for this budget goal will be updating the Sampson G. Smith Intermediate school's cafeteria to the level of a middle school.

The cost would be close to $400,000, and some of that will be offset by the food services program, which takes in revenue independent of taxpayer revenues. 

Capital reserve funds will be used to target facilities revitalization to the tune of $2,556,500 with the biggest cost going to the construction of a concession stand at the FHS Athletic Complex for $1,200,000. 

According to the state of New Jersey government website,"Capital reserve accounts may be established by New Jersey school districts for the accumulation of funds to be used in subsequent years to implement capital projects in a district approved Long Range Facility Plan (LRFP)." 

Ravally and Strimple will present the budget this Thursday, March 23 at FHS, to the Board of Education for approval during their public meeting at 7:30 p.m. If approved by the BOE the budget will then be sent to the County Executive Superintendent of Schools on Friday, March 24. 

The final step will be to present the state approved budget to the BOE for adoption at a public hearing on April 27. 

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