WESTFIELD, NJ - The Westfield Board of Education unanimously approved the 2012-13 budget on Tuesday night while also announcing the date for a $13.6 million bond referendum in September.
The board backed the $95.36 million budget, a 2.2 percent raise compared to last year's measure. The vote was 8-0 with board member David Finn absent.
With the help of a state aid, the tax levy will be a 1.9 percent hike to $87.19 million or a $183 tax increase for an average assessed home of $182,000.
The 1.9 percent raise means that the measure does not have to go to the ballot in November for the voters approval. The state requires that school district budgets which increase by more than two percent need to be placed on the ballot for voters approval.
"It was a good budget and well put together and well thought out," said School Board President Richard Mattessich.
Westfield received an increase of $693,000 in state aid to $2.83 million. According to officials, the state aid increase was used in the technology area and decreases the tax levy.
In addition the school board announced that a bond referendum will be on Sept. 25 for repairs on the roof in the school district. The bond question could also include a proposal to build turf fields in the district and could be added later in the year.
For the school budget the largest increase was athletics at 8.4 percent to $1.04 million, but the largest increase by dollars was instruction that rose 3.8 percent to $64.9 million.
Vincent Yaniro, interim business administrator/board secretary, said that the hikes mainly have to do with new instructors and employees along with equipment.
One of the largest increases has to do with technology that the district continues to stress to get the students ready to go out to the real world for careers that continue to be technology based.
According to Yaniro the district spends $11,814 per student, far below the state average of $13,587 per student and other comparable nearby districts like Summit ($14,191), Berkeley Heights ($13,496), Millburn ($14,767) and Scotch Plains-Fanwood ($11,895).
"We think that it demonstrates that we make efficient use of our budget funds," said Yaniro.
And board member Gina Leiz lauded the district for the cost per pupil. "I think this is a shining example of Westfield's prudent spending," said Leiz.
The biggest drops in costs were administration and child study team. Yaniro added that cuts in those areas have to do with health care costs as school district employees have recently agreed to pay into their health care programs.
School Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan said she was happy to report that unlike in previous years that the district is not making major cuts. "For a number of years I couldn't say that we couldn't maintain programs," she said, adding that this budget does not allow those cuts to return. "I am thrilled about it but it doesn't mean that everything is coming back."
In addition to the approval of the school budget, the school district applauded eight students who were named finalists in the National Merit Scholarship program. The eight students are Thomas Edwards, Genna Gao, Katharine Jaruzelski, Hannah Margolin, Kathleen Tang, Leo Tolias, Brian Vander-Schaaf and Nicholas Zahorodny.
Mattessich pointed out that the finalists chosen by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation represent less than one percent of all United States high school seniors.