WARREN, NJ - After listening to an overview of contemplated changes, the Warren Township Board of Education approved the tentative 2017-18 budget on Monday. 

The total budget for 2017-18 is for an adjusted $42,492,100, a $706,896 increase over last year. 

The budget includes a proposed school district tax rate of .862, down from .872 last year. Taxes for the average Warren homeowner would increase $115 because the average assessed home value has increased from $717,015 last year to $738,628 this year.

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The tentative budget offsets cost increases with preschool tuition totaling $71,250, state aid at $1,247,692, an emergency reserves withdrawal of $318,341, and the tax levy.

Included in the tentative budget are security enhancements -- a visitor management system similar to Watchung Hills', the replacement of Warren Middle School's front doors, modifications to the entrances at Angelo L. Tomaso School and Mount Horeb, and the repairing and/or replacing of the fencing at Tomaso School.

Also included is a technology upgrade, with Dell 70-inch touch screens included in the proposed budget to replace some aging SMART Boards. 

The tentative budget takes into consideration some proposed changes in unified arts at the elementary schools, an additional preschool teacher, and additional physical education teachers resulting in a net reduction of 4.7 positions.

Special education costs and benefits costs are always challenging for school budgets. Business Administrator Pat Leonhardt explained the decrease in out of district tuitions and transportation costs plus the increase in benefits costs for the tentative budget.

Tuition costs were reduced almost $500,000 to $1,334,802 from $1,802,976 last year resulting in part from out of district placements being brought back in district, a 26 percent reduction. And transportation costs were reduced just over $100,000 to $2,104,006 from $2,216,712 last year.

But the savings will be offset by an increase in the cost of benefits. The proposed budget includes just over a $500,000 increase in benefits costs to $8,578,018 up from $8,072,478 last year.

The tentative budget will now be presented to the Somerset County Superintendent with a public hearing scheduled for Monday, April 24 for the board vote.