Education

Caldwell-West Caldwell District Pegs Referendum Cost at $200 Per Household Per Year

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WEST CALDWELL, NJ — In order to accommodate full-day kindergarten (FDK), Caldwell-West Caldwell Public Schools will have to build a total of five new classrooms throughout the district, superintendent of schools James Heinegg told residents at Monday’s meeting of the district’s board of education.

FDK is a portion of the construction projects envisioned for a referendum that would be submitted to board and township voters for approval.

Other projects would include an increase in facilities for special education around the district and an increase in instructional space to further foster STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the middle school, Heinegg said.

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The superintendent estimated the tax bite for the whole package to be about $150 to $200 annually for the average residential taxpayer in Caldwell and West Caldwell.

School business administrator Thomas Lambe added that the objective of bonding the projects would be to keep the payments as uniform and steady as possible over the 15-or 20-year life of the bonds. He noted that with the district’s AA bond rating, the bonds would come in at about 3 percent or less.

Continuing with his estimates on the impact of FDK, Heinegg said that, the district currently houses about five half-day kindergarten classes at any given time. Bringing in FDK, he added, would mean accommodating a total of nine-to-10 classes. This would mean adding five or more new staff members, he said.

The superintendent projected the cost of the new staff members at $400,000 per year, and Lambe added that future teacher contracts, based on current and past settlements, could bring staff salary settlements with increases in the range of 2-to-3 percent per year.

Heinegg also said that none of the district’s current buildings are configured in a way that allows for the extra space required for FDK, and thus, the extra space would have to be added. In addition to teaching staff, he noted, additions to the custodial staff would also be needed.

The school executive said the state department of education still has not approved the district’s construction proposals.

On another fiscal matter, the school board voted on Monday to approve the transfer of interest earned in the capital project fund during 2016-2017 to the general fund for tax relief.

Lambe said that interest generated during 2016-2017 school year, which ends on June 30, will be about $40,000.

He added that it is too early to predict how much interest the district will earn in 2017-2018, but said it will be "substantially lower due to the bond project funds being spent down.”

The board also voted to transfer a maximum of $500,000 in unanticipated excess current-year revenue or unexpended appropriations from the general fund into a maintenance reserve account.

Additionally, it approved the transfer of a maximum of $1,000,000 in unanticipated excess current-year revenue or unexpended appropriations from the general fund into a capital reserve account at year end.

The board also approved payment to Heinegg for attainment of the following 2016-2017 merit goals:

  • Enhance communications with parents and the community (2.5 percent or $3,875)
  • Offer a minimum of 10 open-agenda meetings for public input.
  • Issue a minimum of 10 press releases celebrating student and staff achievements.
  • Attend at least two Home School Association meetings at each school.
  • Offer at least six grant-writing/revenue-development workshops for district teachers and administrators.
  • Provide follow-up support to all educators who are interested in developing proposals (2.5 percent or $3,875).

The board announced that these payments do not affect Heinegg’s 2017-2018 salary, which is capped by state regulation, and the board reported the superintendent was declining payments for grants received in 2016-2017.

The board also accepted the resignation of district school psychologist Brian Rogoff, effective June 30.

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