Brick’s Board of Education adopted a budget for the 2015-16 school year that contains no tax hike in the general operating budget, but increases the tax levy on township residents due to debt that must be repaid on bonds issued years ago.
The $146,930,267 school budget will be supported by a $100,000,721 tax levy, up from $99,213,195 last year. The 0.9 percent increase in the tax levy is fully due to debt service, said James Edwards, the district’s business administrator. Bonds dating back to the late 1990s are included in the overall debt repayment, Edwards said, including bonding approved by township voters in a 2008 referendum.
School officials also struggled this year to find $200,000 to make up for an increase in tuition costs for students to attend county-run vocational schools. The price of full-time programs in the schools doubled this year, Edwards said, and the county district for the first time is charging local school districts for students who attend on a shared-time basis.
The levy increase will cost a Brick resident who owns an average-priced home approximately $25 per year more in the school portion of their property tax bills.
The budget includes a slight, 0.3 percent increase in overall expenditures, Edwards said. The spending plan includes the addition of a robotics program at Brick Township High School modeled after a similar program at Brick Memorial High School, as well as new automatic defibrillators, a boiler for Herbertsville Elementary School, public address systems for eight schools, the Big Ideas math program curriculum and a history curriculum – The Americans – for high school.
The budget also includes the addition of an Advanced Placement European history course in the high schools, the addition of first grade classes and Warren Wolf Elementary School, as well as bilingual kindergarten and first grade classes at the school, Edwards said, due to increase in the township’s non English-speaking population. A night facilities inspector will also be hired this year.
To save money, Edwards said the district has begun studying transportation efficiency improvements.
“We’re going to take a look at whether the appropriate amount of ridership is actually occurring,” Edwards said. “There could be some increases in students that are assigned [to buses], but we have to balance that with the length of the routes since we have a limited window of when we can get students to and from school. We do feel that there can be some savings there.”
The district could farm out busing for private schools to the Monmouth-Ocean Educational Services Commission, Edwards said.