RANDOLPH, NJ - At last Tuesday’s tentative budget presentation, board member Sheldon Epstein announced the lowest property tax increase in over 16 years, 0.39%.
“I think you’ll see that this is a fantastic use of district and taxpayer raised funds... in delivering an exceptional education experience,” Epstein began. “Education doesn’t start and stop in the classroom, but goes to co-curricular, extracurricular activities, leading our children, my children, yours, to being valued contributors to a global society.”
“The budget increase is 0.39% in regards to property taxes, and that’s the lowest increase in 16 plus years,” Epstein explained. In fact, each of the past three budgets has been the lowest in over 16 years, with property tax increases slightly over 1%.
The operating budget this year is approximately $90 million with a $3 million increase from last year. $1.4 million comes from the property tax increase, $1.2 million from the capital reserve and $350,000 from an emergency reserve for security enhancements.
Epstein explained that while the board approves raising funds and the tax levy, they are not directly responsible for how the funds are spent. Before the budget was completed, the administration presented their plans for those budgeted funds.
Superintendent Jennifer Fano provided insight to how the budget will be used through teacher development, curriculum and learning centers.
“We’ll continue to develop how instruction is delivered and ensure assessment strategies and data are used to inform a teacher’s practice,” Fano said. “Teachers will strengthen their ability to deliver relative and meaningful instruction that empowers students and engages them in real-world problems as a means to build their knowledge and deepen their understanding”
The administration will be reviewing and revising the K-12 math and language arts curriculum to align with NJ state standards, and ensure that students will see real-world applications of these concepts. STEAM remains an important initiative within the district, and students will be encouraged to draw connections between all subjects and “transcend disciplines.”
“As educators building this budget, we already know it’s important to build and instill a positive mathematical mindset in every learner, and by connecting these disciplines we will leverage a child’s natural tendency to connect with technology, art, and music in order to guarantee every learner appreciates their mathematical strengths,” Fano added.
As the administration revises the curriculum, they also will be adding new high school level courses, such as Sports Management, Smart Phone Photography and Digital Marketing. They will expand the American Sign Language program and investigate the development of a Mandarin program.
Business Administrator Gerald Eckert addressed the improvements to the district’s infrastructure through facilities and technology.
He listed several projects that will be undertaken during the 2017-18 school year such as the high school track resurfacing and the Randolph Middle School auditorium renovation. Technology upgrades include replacing the high school PA system and older computers throughout the district.
Epstein wrapped up the presentation by reinforcing the low property tax increase.
“All of this is done with the help of the community in terms of the taxes, so I want to say thank you, not just to the administration and the staff, but I want to say thank you to the community as well,” Epstein concluded.
The final budget will be presented on April 25.