BRICK – The school administration began the Brick Township Public School 2021-2022 budget process with a $7 million shortfall, said Superintendent Thomas Farrell during a recent Board of Education meeting.
The $160,822,670 spending plan “is a no-frills, simple budget, meaning that there’s not much room for manipulation,” he said. “It is both fiscally responsible and maintains existing student programs.”
Annual expenditures increase by approximately $3.5 million just in salaries and benefits, Dr. Farrell said. Salaries and benefits make up about 80 percent of the budget, he added.
The total tax levy available is limited by the state-mandated 2 percent cap, or $2.2 million. Due to the S-2 bill, the district has to grapple with another budget cut. For this budget cycle, the district is being hit with a $5.3 decrease in state aid.
NJ State Senate Bill S-2 modified school funding and eliminated over $20 million in state aid to Brick over a seven year period.
To date, cumulative losses in state aid to the district under S-2 is $14.1 million. Another $5.2 million is scheduled to be cut in the 2022-2023 school year budget.
The amount to be raised by local taxes is $117,391,709, up from $115,155,355 for the current school year.
In order to balance the budget – which is a state law – the spending plan utilizes some $6.4 million of surplus, plus some federal revenue sources and increased grant funding.
Some of the surplus was generated during the pandemic when a number of the (pre-pandemic) budget items were not utilized, such as gas for buses, utilities, substitute costs, and more, said Business Administrator James Edwards.
Dr. Farrell said that 26 full-time positions will be cut, although the administration is hopeful that these can be absorbed by retirement and/or attrition. To date, the district has eliminated over 100 positions, he added.
The most important factor to consider while balancing the budget was to minimize the effect the cuts would have on class size, Dr. Farrell said.
Director of Planning, Research and Evaluation Susan McNamara said the average class sizes for the 2021-2022 school year are approximately 22 for kindergarten and first grade; 24 for grades two and three; and 30 students per class in grades four and five.
“Overall class sizes range from a low of 18 in the early elementary level to a high of 32 in the upper elementary level,” she said.
At the middle school level, class sizes range from a low of 24 to a high of 30.
At the high school level, the average number of students per core subject area will average about 23, she said.
Edwards said that the 2021-2022 school year budget includes some $8 million for capital projects, including roof repairs, improvements and upgrades to parking lots, HVAC systems, turf replacement and other small and large items throughout the district.
While the local tax levy is limited to 2 percent, as the amount needed for repayment of debt decreases, the tax levy to support that debt also decreases, Edwards explained. Therefore, the net tax increase will be 1.9 percent.
Brick spends $15,257 per student, while the state average is $16,750.
“We continue to be in the bottom of spending as compared to other districts,” Edwards said. “And we are second to the bottom when it comes to administrative costs.”
A user-friendly budget may be viewed on the district website at Brickschools.org.
The next Board of Education meeting will be on May 20, 2021 at 7 p.m.