BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The 2017-2018 Bloomfield School District budget will increase property taxes by $200 on the average-assessed home of $270,700, according to Debra Mangano, the accountant for the board of education. This represents an increase of 1 percent above the previous academic year, she said.
Total school expenditures will be $107.6 million. For the 2016-2017 school year, expenditures were $101 million. But Mangano said that $5 million from capital reserve had been placed in the reserve previously and had no impact on the current budget. But this $5 million shows up as an expenditure. However, the remaining $1.9 million in capital outlay is part of the 2017-2018 tax levy, Mangano said. The budget was approved April 25.
Capital projects in the new budget include a roof replacement and new boiler at Carteret Elementary School; districtwide projects for paving and asbestos abatement; an electrical upgrade at the high school media center; and asbestos abatement in the boiler room at Franklin Elementary School.
“I think anyone walking by the schools will see that they are being taken care of more than they have been for years,” BOE President Emily Smith said earlier this week. “The facilities look terrific. We’re not having to take from Peter to pay Paul. We have enough to adequately fund the facilities.”
BOE member Dan Anderson said the district was making a “real commitment to the facilities.” Budget restraints often require school districts to ignore their buildings and infrastructure, he said.
The budget will also provide for the new position of director of English language arts director, K-5; and a director of elementary education.
Anderson said the director of language arts will have oversight on the readers/writers workshops. He saw the elementary education director as someone who will facilitate a creative learning environment.
“This person will oversee a ‘makers program,’ Anderson said, “and provide children with material which they can explore and combine.”
He said Brookdale Elementary School has a makerspace in its media room.
Smith was happy that in some instances, teachers will replace computers. “What I really like is we got some people teaching foreign languages,” she said. “Rosetta Stone, a computer program, is going away. It is not a substitute for a human staff.”
Anderson said that “STEM,” which is an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, will become “STEAM” with the inclusion of an “A” for art.
“We’re looking to increase STEM to STEAM” by adding the arts,” he said. “STEAM is the addition of aesthetics. One of the things I believe is that employees are looking for people who can create and design.”
He said there will also be more project-based learning where students work in groups to solve problems.
“Often the problems are real-world issues,” Anderson said. “They find the knowledge they need. There is some of this going on now but we’re trying to increase it.”
Smith said she was happy with the budget.
“We’re in a much better place than a few years ago,” she said. “Everybody pitched in to be as economically as possible.”
Regarding the positions of English language arts director, and director of elementary education, Smith said a district the size of Bloomfield needed these positions.
“We had teacher filling in at these positions,” she said. “You can’t adequately teach and do the administrative work, too. You can’t have people splitting the workload.”
Employee benefit cost decreased by $1.3 million. Mangano said this was partly because of a $400,000 decrease in the prescription plan. Also that last year the anticipated increase in health benefits was less than the budgeted amount.
Smith said one of the reasons for the $200 tax increase is that “the ratables in town have been obliterated.”
“There’s a lot of building going on,” she said, “but it is with PILOT programs and tax abatements. There’s a lot of new development but very little of the money is coming to the school district.”