The Bernards Township Board of Education may already have passed the 2012-13 school budget last month, but did not spell out all of next year's spending priorities. The public is invited to a Thursday morning PTO-hosted meeting to offer input to school officials on those funds should be allocated.
The meeting is hosted by all school PTOs, said Ridge High School co-president Sarah Bonnefoi, who issued an email invitation to high school parents.
Residents will have an opportunity to voice opinions about how the budget will be spent before Schools Superintendent Valerie Goger and several members of the BOE at the scheduled 9:15 a.m. meeting at the Mount Prospect Elementary School Hansom Road in The Hills, Bonnefoi said in the invitation. The meeting will be held in the school cafeteria.
"If you would like to see a program funded or restored, if you have an opinion on capital (meaning physical repairs or improvements to buildings) expenditures, this meeting is an excellent time to be heard," she said.
The group is there to answer questions as well as listen to public comments and concerns. I know that Dr. Goger will be attending (as was written in my original e-mail) and do not believe that Nick Markarian will be present.
Several hundred thousands of dollars of funds in the budget were not allocated when the 2012-13 budget was approved March 26, as board members continued to debate whether to possibly hire more teachers to help reduce class sizes, reinstate an elementary Spanish program and a program for gifted students in the lower grades, or tackle some buildings improvements that some board members have said was put off too long.
"Though the board approved and adopted the school district budget for the 2012-13 school year for purposes of establishing the tax levy, spending priorities for maintenance and programs will be decided during the next two months," Bonnefoi said in the email.
During the public hearing of the Board of Education (BOE) on March 26th, 2012, Nick Markarian, the Bernards Township Business Administrator, presented an updated school budget for the 2012-2013 school year, that is available on the Board of Education website, she noted.
The website includes further information under the March 26, 2012 Board of Education Meeting Summary. The entire presentation can be viewed by clicking on the BBudget and Election Information" link found under "Board of Education" on the menu to the left on that same webpage, she noted.
Those who are unable to attend the meeting on Thursday, but still would like to have some input on the budget, may send an e-mail to BoardMembers@bernardsboe.com to share your opinion with the school board, Bonnefoi said.
The approved $93.26-million budget includes a 2 percent increase in the general fund budget that would add $182 onto an average township home assessed at $577,394, according to school figures. New state guidelines advanced by the governor this year give school districts the option of forgoing a public vote on the next year's school budget if local school tax increases don't exceed 2 percent, and if the election for school board candidates is moved to November.
The board had earlier in February decided to move the election for school board candidates to November. Board members on March 26 unanimously approved a $75,856,316 taxpayer contribution to the 2012-12 next year's budget, following comments by the public and board members.
The board did not make a decision that night, however, on whether to spend part of funds that might otherwise go toward facilities repairs and upgrades on one or more of three proposals that would affect elementary classrooms.
Two of the proposals, already discussed at the March 12 meeting, call for the reinstatement of the elementary grade enrichment program and an elementary school Spanish program, both of which were cut a few years ago due to budget constraints. Each program would cost about $230,000, to include the hiring of four teachers, one for each elementary school, along with some materials and rewriting of the curriculum.
Those programs were put on the back burner for now, however, and board members heard another proposal on March 26 by Director of Curriculum Sean Siet about the possibility of hiring additional teachers to reduce class sizes in elementary school.
For example, Siet said average class sizes at the Cedar Hill Elementary School have risen to 25.5 students per class at the second grade level; 25.75 students for the third grade; and 25.75 students in that school's fifth grade.
Depending on where teachers are needed in the schools, hiring some extra classroom faculty for next year might cost between about $200,000-plus to $300,000, Markarian said after the budget was passed.