East Brunswick school board gives insight into 2016 budget

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By MICHAEL NUNES
Staff Writer

EAST BRUNSWICK – Additional teachers, a net loss in state aid and funding air conditioning improvements are a major part of the district’s 2016 budget.

The East Brunswick Board of Education held a public hearing on its 2016 budget, which totals $146.28 million, at its April 28 meeting.

“I believe we have put together a very comprehensive financial budget that is fiscally responsible and meets the needs of a very dynamic and an ever-changing school district. That is really a challenge to do, so I appreciate all the work that has gone into it over the many months,” said Victor Valeski, superintendent of schools, who went on the thank the district’s Finance Committee and Business Administrator Bernardo Giuliana for their work.

The 2016 budget is supported by a $121.92 million tax on residential and commercial properties in the township.

The school tax rate under the tentative budget is expected to increase by 11.7 cents to $6.74 per $100 of home assessment.

A home assessed at the township average of $100,000 could see taxes raise to $6,740 – an increase of $110 from the previous year, which was $6,630.

The total increase from the 2015-16 budget, which totaled $143.3 million, is backed by a $119.5 million tax levy on township property owners.

The tax levy is expected to increase by 1.75 percent, according to Giuliana.

The district also received $17.99 million in state aid, an increase from the $17.84 million the district has received over the past two years.

Despite the increase, according to Giuliana, the district is still short from the $20.08 million it had received from the state during the 2008-09 school year.

“I believe it is quiet important, going back to 2008-09, to give the community a look of where we were to where we are. That year was the last year we received a much larger share of state aid, that was just over $20 million, and then the district was hit with a cut at the state level that reduced our state revenues significantly,” he said.

“There have been some minor gains since then, but certainly nowhere near the amount that had been provided in 2008-09. The result is that the community has had a greater burden to support the local schools.”

With the increase, however, the district’s commitment to the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School has also increased. This year the district is set to pass $2.59 million in funds to the charter school, up from the $2.36 million from last year.

Taking into account the district’s School Development Authority (SDA) assessment, which stands at $347,538 for both the current year and next year, the district is set to receive a net state aid of $15.04 million, down from $15.13 million the previous year.

Giuliana estimates $4.3 million in funds to be available from the current school year that could be used for next year to help support the budget.

There have been multiple staffing additions at the district’s schools. According to information provided by the district, funds for two world language teachers, one general education teacher, one resource room teacher, along with another English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, are allocated in the budget. Three new guidance counselors, one at Churchill Junior High School and two at East Brunswick High School, have also been added.

The district is also seeking to strengthen its Chromebook and other technology initiative.

Funds in the budget would also help to provide air conditioning and heating to all of the district schools.

“There has been an effort the last several years to continue to move towards proving climate control at each of the schools,” Giuliana said, adding that climate control had been added to Lawrence Brook, Memorial and Central elementary schools when the schools were being rebuilt.

Currently, Irwin and Murrary A. Chittick elementary schools are undergoing improvements, with air conditioning expected to be available by September.

Bowne-Monro, Robert Frost and Warnsdorfer elementary schools are planned to receive these improvements at a later date.

“We are anticipating that with this budget we will have the funds to be able to kick off those programs. … This is is huge endeavor on the part of the district,” he said.

The board operates 11 schools in the township, all of which are Blue Ribbon schools.

A vote for adoption is scheduled at the May 12 board meeting, which will be held at Hammarskjold Middle School.

Contact Michael Nunes at mnunes@gmnews.com.

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