Bordentown Regional school board introduces $47M budget for 2019-20

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The Bordentown Regional School District Board of Education has introduced a tentative budget for the 2019-20 school year.

A presentation on the proposed budget was given by Superintendent of Schools Edward Forsthoffer, who explained the reasoning and formalities for the budget, which was then approved by the board to be sent to the executive county superintendent for further review.

District administrators said they anticipate adopting the budget on May 1. A public hearing on the budget will be conducted at 7 p.m. in the Bordentown Regional High School library.

The proposed total budget for the 2019-20 school year is $47.35 million, which includes a general fund of $43.3 million, special revenues of $835,823 and debt service of $3.2 million.

The proposed total local tax levy to support the budget is $33.2 million, to be paid by the residential and commercial property owners of the municipalities that comprise the regional district – Bordentown Township, Bordentown City and Fieldsboro.

Forsthoffer said the proposed budget would allow new employees to be hired and continue the district’s educational services.

“This budget will maintain our existing programs and services, including non-mandated full-day kindergarten and courtesy busing. It will also maintain our sports and extracurricular programs, and we will not be adding participation fees,” Forsthoffer said.

“We will be funding new initiatives such as a new social studies program, some capital improvements to our infrastructure, and we will also be adding eight staff members to our district,” he said.

Administrators said the key component allowing for the addition of personnel and the preservation of services is an increase in state aid for 2019-20.

Forsthoffer said state aid will increase by $693,177 (3.7 percent), bringing the district’s total state aid to about $9.3 million.

“After many years of difficult budgets that involved cutting personnel and programs, we are finally at a stage where we are able to add back some of the things that had been reduced,” he said.

“This is happening for a few reasons, not the least of which is we received an increase in state aid. The increase is because the district has been below adequacy (levels) for years and the state has adjusted its funding formula and taken that into account. Most importantly, the budget is balanced and it is within (the tax levy) cap,” Forsthoffer added.

In keeping with the tax levy cap established by the state, which is a permitted 2 percent annual increase in the tax levy, administrators said that is equal to about $593,400 and said they will not be asking for more than a 2 percent increase for the upcoming school year.

Forsthoffer noted that while administrators anticipate these multiple changes, there remain two significant unknowns. At this point, he said administrators do not have final healthcare numbers, so they have to take their best estimate working with the district’s broker and provider.

“We anticipate some modest increases, but we don’t anticipate anything in double-digit increases,” he said.

Forsthoffer said that “in looking at our educational programs and staffing positions, there will be enhancements such as our social studies program, which will fully incorporate the New Jersey learning standards next year, and we will be purchasing a new series of supplies and resources for that.”

He said administrators are planning to purchase additional technology, which includes interactive projectors and whiteboards. For transportation, he said the district is looking to purchase a new school bus and a new van to replace vehicles that are aging out of the current fleet.

In regard to capital improvements, district officials said they are planning to upgrade items such as house lighting at the performing arts center, roof repairs at the Peter Muschal Elementary School and the addition of an awning at the entrance of the Bordentown Regional Middle School.

Administrators said they are planning to add eight employees, including a half-time high school guidance counselor who will also be a half-time student assistant counselor at the middle school; a middle school band teacher; a special education teacher; a technology support person; two elementary school Spanish teachers at the K-5 level; and two program supervisors – one in language arts and one in mathematics.

Specific information about the impact of the budget on property taxes is expected to be available at the public hearing on the budget.

“We believe this budget is educationally sound and fiscally prudent. It provides the necessary upgrades for enhancements in programs, infrastructure and additional personnel,” Forsthoffer said. “The additions are in line with the goals and objectives we have been discussing for several months among the board members.”