BARNEGAT – The Barnegat Township Board of Education introduced the budget for the 2019-2020 school year.
The proposed operating budget for 2019-2020 is $59,660,459, $31,400,558 of which is to be raised by taxation. The amount to be raised by taxation is up $1,021,715 from 2018-2019.
In addition to the operating budget, the district has calculated a Special Revenue Fund of $5,777,454 and a Debt Service Fund of $2,683,244 for this upcoming school year.
Officials note that this budget is tentative, meaning that “some changes will most likely take place as the Board continues to examine the draft budget to identify options at reducing its impact to taxpayers,” according to Business Administrator Stephen Brennan.
The proposed budget proposes no increase or decrease to the tax rate, keeping it at $1.30 per $100 of assessed valuation from 2018.
According to Superintendent Dr. Brain Latwis, this next year’s budget is up from last year, some of which can be accounted for by the district’s preschool grant and reserve funds.
The fully funded state Preschool Education Expansion Aid (PEEA) grant accounts for about $4.5 million, said Latwis. The remainder of the budget increase will be funded by the district’s reserves, which Latwis likened to a savings account.
The proposed budget focuses on funding Response to Intervention programs, data driven instruction initiatives, and improvements to infrastructure, Latwis added. For example, the Russell O. Brackman Middle School recently underwent an HVAC replacement, a project the Barnegat High School is now in desperate need of. Latwis also cited drainage issues on some of the school fields as a future project administration is already thinking about.
“This year forced each department to deeply investigate its current and future needs to decide on areas of reduction or elimination,” Brennan said. “This budget presents a calm, planned approach that takes into consideration more than just the 2019-2020 budget year.”
District officials prided themselves on putting together a budget that does its best to serve the needs of the students as well as those of the taxpayer, despite economic difficulties.
“Since many families face economic uncertainty, we believe that the budget balances our fiduciary responsibility to educate students with fiscal accountability to the taxpayers,” Latwis explained.
Brennan also noted that putting together this year’s budget was a particularly difficult challenge due to changes to state aid with Senate Bill 2.
“State budgetary constraints, the enactment of stringent regulations and the unavoidable impact of many fixed costs create an enormous strain on financial resources that force the Board to prioritize programmatic needs,” he explained.
The Board gave the OK to submit the budget to the state Department of Education on March 19. According to Brennan, changes could be made to the proposed budget between now and when the Board approves the final budget on April 30.