Berkeley School District Tax Levy Remains Flat

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BERKELEY – School officials praised a budget that results in a flat tax levy while addressing some criticisms that were floating around Facebook in recent days.

The total budget will decrease slightly, from $36,355,087 to $36,347,776.

The amount to be raised in taxes will be $28,025,975. This is the same amount as last year. The district is paying a little bit more in debt service, from $1,930,900 to $1,945,225.

The tax rate for 2017-18 will be 54.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, a slight increase over the current year’s 54.7 cents. However, this is because the average home assessment changed. Even though the district isn’t taxing anyone more, the numbers get a bit misleading. The average increase works out to $5 a year on the average home assessed at $199,500, but most residents won’t feel that.

Included in the budget are two more staff and a possible redesign of the Bayville School’s parking lot.

  The budget includes a world language teacher, Superintendent James Roselli said. The district was using Rosetta Stone, a world language program. However, due to a state mandate, they will be bringing back a world language teacher they had let go in the past when the district “was going in a different direction.”

A second music teacher will also be re-introduced to BTES. There used to be two in the past.

“Typically, when it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” he said, so the district was fortunate to bring these positions back. The thanked the board of education for their assistance in this. No other positions were created or removed.

“We don’t want to ever lose any existing programs,” he said. Various programs that are continuing are: extended school year for special education students, Camp Paw, full day kindergarten, half day preschool, one Chromebook per student, and a Berkeley Township police officer in school.

There will be a new reading program for grades kindergarten through 5th, and a district-wide fiber upgrade to increase network speed. A capital improvement program is in the works for the Bayville School’s parking lot, but the specifics are still in the planning stages.

“It’s becoming a bit of a safety concern,” he said. Being right on Route 9, it is a heavy traffic area, with not a lot of parking. This makes it difficult when there are events at night or during the day.

Addressing Controversy

A message critical of the district’s policies was circulating through social media recently, and Roselli took the time to address some of the statements made.

A Facebook post stated that technology education would be removed as a special, that the 6th graders won’t be moving through rooms like they would in middle school, and that math education won’t be split up into ability levels.

Roselli said these were all discussions that were had, but were not made permanent. A curriculum meeting will be held soon to address some of the residents’ concerns. However, he warned that nothing has gone beyond the discussion stage.

The 6th grade graduation ceremony was criticized in the post as well: “What is the need for a large drawn-out spectacle, to be held at night, and again requiring more money tossed out, to pay the teachers, the custodians, etc. when it can be done during the day at school without additional cost? Is it truly for the children, or for the faces of the dignitaries at large?”

Roselli said the graduation will be held at Central Regional Middle School at 6 p.m. on June 15. He said it is a fitting send-off to students leaving the district, and then heading to Central. “It’s the culmination of 7-plus years of education,” he said. Central was chosen as a location because the elementary schools would not have the space to fit all of the kids and their families.

“We really want the kids to go out with a lasting memory of their time at Berkeley Township,” he said.