The board of education adopted a budget of $85,418,510 for the 2002-2003 school year. This is approximately $4.5 million over last year's budget of $80,859,334 or 5.64 percent. However, the new budget is carrying 7/10 of one percent of the debt for the library construction, which will not impact the tax rate. Therefore the actual increase in operating expenses for the schools is 4.9 percent.
The tax rate will be 7.5 percent for Class I: this means that homeowners will pay an increase of $4.57 for every $100 of assessed valuation (note this is not market value), paying $64.88 this year, as compared to $60.31 last year.
The first draft of the new budget had an additional $4 million. The board asked the administration to priortize their needs and cut the budget in whatever areas they could. Examples of a few of the reductions the administration came back to the board with include a $67,000 cut in computer equipment, which came from cutting back the district's warranty from five years to four years; a $46,520 cut for salary and benefits for an additional cleaner at the middle school; $3,250 for 10 fewer uniforms for performing arts because fewer were needed because of a better idea of actual enrollment for the next year; $30,000 for hiring a Salem School principal for three months rather than one-half year; and $216,000 for three fewer grade 5 teachers (one additional 5th grade teacher had been suggested for each of the elementary schools-only Guggenheim's was approved.) (Note: The board told the parents that if it appears that enrollment in the fifth grades in Manorhaven, Sousa or Daly gets too high, thereby increasing class size, they will hire an additional fifth grade teacher. Some parents objected to holding off on this item, commenting that most of the quality teachers would have already made commitments to other districts by August, when the determination to hire another teacher would most likely be made.)
The increases in general come from an increase in the number of students, which for next year, so far, is about 60 new pupils.
Two things should be noted. One is that the impact of the major bulk of the $66 million school facilities bond approved by the voters last year is not included in the new budget, as the projects are still in the design and approval stages.
The other is that the teachers' contract expires June 30 of this year. However, the board has set aside funds in anticipation of a settlement with the teachers, according to Assistant Superintendent for Schools Mary Callahan. Whether the sum is sufficient or not obviously depends upon the agreement reached with the teachers.
The budget vote and school board election for two trustee seats will be held on Tuesday, May 21, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the Weber Middle School all-purpose room.