SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – The Board of Education moved its public hearing and final vote on the proposed 2017-18 district budget to May 8, Acting Schools Superintendent Gary McCartney said Monday night.

The hearing and vote on the proposed $145 million spending plan was initially scheduled for Monday night’s meeting, but several members of the board were expected to be absent, he said.

“When I received notice that we might not have a full deployment of the board tonight, it made no sense to present the public budget hearing,” Dr. McCartney said. “By the state’s calendar, tonight would’ve been the earliest we are allowed to do it.”

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Dr. McCartney said that same calendar allows a “window” until May 8 to finalize the plan, which is the board’s next scheduled meeting.

Although not yet final, the proposal does carry an increase of around 4 percent due to increases in salaries and other contractual obligations, representing a challenge to the district, officials said.

The district can get by a state mandated 2 percent “cap” on increases by using its “cap bank” representing the amount of increases not used in the last several years.

Board Budget Committee Chairman Martin Abschutz said that the district needs to use some of that bank this year to help offset increases in the tax rate.

Officials, however, could not say how many cents-per $100 of assessed valuation the proposed plan would increase the current rate, but that number would be calculated and released to the public during the May 8 hearing and presentation.

Three board members, Azra Baig, Art Robinson and Deven Patel attended a Township Democratic Committee screening Monday where the party interviewed an estimated “baker’s dozen” candidates for the open Township Council seat caused by the death of Mayor Frank Gambatese and the appointment of Chris Killmurray to the mayor’s seat, leaving his council member seat open.

Council members have 15 days from April 11, when Killmurray was formally appointed mayor, to fill the empty seat.

That deadline is Wednesday.

Both Mayor Killmurray and the appointed councilman will then run in the general election in November, and the winners of that race will likely run again in 2018 when the normally scheduled race for those four-year seats takes place.

Baig, Patel and Robinson all returned to the board meeting after their respective screenings, with Baig able to attend the start of the meeting and the others coming in at later points.

Board President Harry Delgado was also absent from the meeting.

The board gave unanimous approval to introduce the preliminary budget on March 20.

During that meeting, Abschutz said the increases in salaries and benefits amounted to about 4 percent, or $111 million of the budget.

“The fact that this is increasing over the 2 percent, to 4.2 percent is a serious challenge,” he said then.

On Monday, Abschutz said the budget is still a work in progress and may be reduced further before the hearing and final vote.

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