BRICK – The Board of Education introduced the tentative 2021-2022 school year budget during a recent Board of Education meeting.
The $160.8 million budget would be supported by a tax levy of $117,391,709.
“As I stated at last month’s Board meeting, our budget is very simple in that we don’t have much control over revenue sources,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Farrell.
“Our revenue can only go up about $2 million with the mandated two percent tax levy cap,” he said. “As we plan the budget for the 2021-2022 school year, the additional loss of aid is $5.3 million.”
Dr. Farrell was referring to NJ State Senate Bill S-2, which modified school funding. He said the cumulative loss of state aid is about $15 million to date, and it will be a total elimination of more than $20 million in state aid to Brick over a seven-year period.
Business Administrator James Edwards said the $5.3 million cut was $100,000 more than what was expected due to a decline in enrollment.
Additional federal revenue sources and increased surplus has helped in this budget cycle, rendering the budget cuts not as dire as previous years, Dr. Farrell said.
The district has made cuts to bridge the gap created by the loss of aid, and those budget cuts would continue this year with additional loss of positions.
“It’s our hope that retirements and attrition will play an integral part in minimizing job loss,” he said.
In COVID-19 news, all students are now attending school in-person, four days a week with an early dismissal, if they choose to attend, Dr. Farrell said.
Pre-K, special ed, MD (multiple disabilities), BD (behavioral disabilities), autistic, and LLD (learning/language disabilities) students are attending school five days a week at the elementary level, and at the middle school level, special ed, MD, BD, and autistic programs are also attending five days a week, he said.
When students return to school after spring break on Monday April 12, all kindergartners through fifth grade will be able to attend school in-person five days a week with early dismissal, or they may remain on virtual instruction, the superintendent said.
The announcement, made on March 18, will provide the time for parents, students and staff to prepare for the transition or for virtual students to return to in-person instruction, he said.
As the school officials continue to stage, monitor and assess each phase, Dr. Farrell said the administration hopes that middle school and high school students could attend school in-person five days a week a few weeks later.
“Ocean County’s COVID-19 numbers are declining, although our region, made up of four counties, is still considered high risk at this point,” he said. “The vaccine’s distribution and supply, as we all know, is still very low in our county.”
As of March 15, Governor Phil Murphy placed K-12 educators and support staff as a priority to receive vaccines, and the district has been working with the Ocean County Health Department, the Ocean Medical Center in Brick, and its self-insured partnership Integrity Health to facilitate a pathway for any staff who want to be vaccinated, Dr. Farrell said.
“We’re hopeful that a majority of this group will be able to receive their first vaccination very shortly, and even have an appointment for their second vaccination by the time we return from spring recess,” he said.
There will be a public hearing and adoption of the 2021-2022 school year budget at the next Board of Education meeting, which will be on Thursday, April 29 at 7 p.m.