BRICK – Residents would have to dig a little deeper into their pockets to fund a 2018-2019 school tax increase that would average $138 annually on a home assessed at $295,000 after the budget was approved by the Board of Education at a recent meeting.
Acting Superintendent of Schools Dennis Filippone presented an overview of the proposed 2018-2019 school year spending plan during the public hearing on the budget.
About 70 percent, or “the lion’s share” of the $155,157,423 budget would be supported by a $109,258,129 tax levy, said Business Administrator James Edwards, up from last year’s tax levy of $104,771,941.
State aid funds 24.2 percent of the budget, or $37,519,707, down slightly from last year’s amount of $37,600,849, he said.
Using a pie graph, Edwards showed that the district also receives 2.4 percent of its budget from federal aid, 2.1 percent from surplus, and .9 percent from other miscellaneous sources.
The budget includes $2,234,334 for debt service, less than last year’s $2,667,572 budgeted amount.
Edwards said that Brick’s cost per pupil is $14,152, with $15,575 as a state average.
The spending plan was a culmination of a five-month process that began in November, when the administration held meetings with program managers to talk about the needs of the district, Filippone said.
“Although the [budget amount] could be staggering to some folks in the audience…it is my belief that we have produced a thorough and efficient budget,” Filippone said.
“It does not include all the things we needed to reach in upgrades in curriculum, instruction and facilities, and it is not a budget with any extras, and it does not include all the things our program managers, our Board of Education and our central administration believe we need,” he said.
Filippone said that he took pause before signing a required Department of Education document guaranteeing that as superintendent, he believes the budget being presented allows for a thorough and efficient education of all the students in the community.
“Because even with all we’re going to present to you tonight, there is still so much that needs to be done, in our facilities, our curriculum work and our staffing,” he said.
Despite that, Filippone said he believes the budget is a fair one to the public and to the students in providing them with what is necessary.
Many factors affect the spending plan. In Brick, 77 percent of the budget goes to pay staff salaries (56 percent) and benefits (21 percent).
Other factors that can be burdensome to the budget include special education programs and services, maintenance and operations, transportation, and the amount of state aid.
The district has no control over costs associated with the special needs students who are placed out of district, and this year there were significant tuition increases in those schools, Filippone said.
Upgrades to what Filippone called “our core business – curriculum and instruction and teaching students” is $750,200, or .5 percent of the budget, less than one percent.
He said the district has always been very proud of being in the forefront of technology, which he said is equal to or better than any of the surrounding districts. Improvements in technology total $400,325, or .3 percent of the budget.
The spending plan calls for nine new positions, including an ELL (English language learners) teacher to be shared between Brick High School and Lake Riviera, and a nurse to be shared by Veterans Elementary and Emma Havens Young Elementary. The present ratio of students to nurse in those two buildings is 800 to one, Filippone said.
Also, new positions include a district-wide humanities supervisor, secondary academic coaches in literacy and math (current personnel would be resourced for these jobs), a security/communications technology specialist for school safety, an HVAC mechanic (currently there are two who handle the whole district), and two additional armed security personnel for the elementary schools. Currently there is one armed guard who covers all elementary schools, he said.
“Now I’m going to talk about the painful part,” said Filippone, as he described the elimination of 44 positions.
All teacher positions would be eliminated through attrition (retirement), and would not be replaced, he said. Other positions being eliminated include social workers, a guidance counselor, 23 teacher aides and two custodial workers.
A member of the audience asked how much money the district would save with the eliminations; Edwards said the new positions would cost an estimated $596,000, but the district would save $1.5 million on the eliminated positions.
Major capital projects in the budget, totaling $4.4 million, include a roof replacement at Drum Point Elementary School ($949,499). Filippone said when it rains there are “buckets placed all over the building to catch water.”
Other facilities projects include air conditioning in the auditorium at Veterans Memorial Middle School ($914,000), which “does not work,” Filippone said.
The budget also includes door replacements at the high schools and at Veterans Memorial and Elementary Schools, concrete/blacktop repairs at multiple locations, and more.
There could be some redistricting in the township since there are substantial differences in class sizes from grade to grade and school to school, he said. Township elementary schools have projected class sizes that range from 15 to 25.
“The board has tasked us with looking into the possibility of redistricting to balance some of the numbers out and to better utilize our facilities,” Filippone said.
The two middle schools also show a significant difference in average class sizes, with Lake Riviera at 23.7 and Veterans Memorial at 20.5.
Class size at the high school level can’t be determined because students take a variety of classes, so a student/teacher ratio is used. At Brick High School, the ratio is one teacher for every 15.3 students, and at Brick Memorial, one teacher for every 14.0 students. The ratio should be one teacher for every 14.5 to 16 students, so the district is not overstaffed, he said.
“This was a difficult budget, and I have to say and I applaud the board for the courage it takes to present the public with a budget that has a significant tax increase,” Filippone said.