Bloomfield BOE votes for 2-percent tax increase

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — In a virtual meeting on May 5, the Bloomfield Board of Education unanimously passed the school district’s 2020–2021 budget, moving forward with planning for the next school year. The local tax levy will be raised by 2 percent, bringing in $77,811,492 — the bulk of the district’s $119,690,326 budget. The tax impact per $100,000 assessed value will be $21.23.

The general fund in the budget is $113,911,166, while the special revenue fund is $3,201,810. The district’s debt service fund is $2,577,350. The budget accounts for receiving $3,592,542 in state aid.

BOE member Ben Morse asked if the amount of state aid will change because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could then in turn affect the tax levy and other items included in the budget.

“Our business administrator has been running different scenarios in the event that the promised state aid comes in a portion or perhaps not at all,” Superintendent Sal Goncalves said at the meeting. “Obviously with COVID there’s going to be additional expenses that we’re going to have to be very flexible with regarding the tax levy. There are quite a few unknowns as we move into it. We’re trying to run as many different scenarios with the guidance that we’re getting out of Trenton as we can, so that we can successfully meet all the needs of our students and provide the quality education that they all deserve, and at the same time be extremely fiscally responsible to make sure that we can make all our contractual obligations as we move forward.”

The budget presentation broke down the district’s spending per student. The total spent on each student will be approximately $15,550. Classroom instruction takes up the largest part of that total with $9,163 per student; on top of that, per student, support services will cost $2,313, administrative costs will be $1,883, operation and maintenance will cost $1,814, extracurricular activities will cost $251 and other expenses will cost $74.

Curriculum changes include a new social studies program for fourth- and fifth-graders that is literacy based with digital components, the STEMScopes digital science curriculum, and introduction of the one-to-one Chromebook initiative for all fifth-graders.

Art and music equipment will also be purchased for next school year. The inventory of old band and string instruments at Bloomfield Middle School will be replaced, as will the auditorium’s sound and lighting systems. At Bloomfield High School, a baby grand piano will be purchased for the choir room.

“We want to make sure that our art programs and our music programs have what they need to complete a thorough and efficient education for all of our students,” Goncalves said.

The budget also makes room for personnel additions. A math interventionist will be hired at Demarest, Brookdale and Oak View elementary schools, to work with regular-education at-risk students on math. An English language arts interventionist will be hired to do the same with ELA at Demarest and Franklin elementary schools.

“Let’s give our most needy students more support,” Goncalves said.

Other hires include a guidance counselor and a special education teacher at BMS, a districtwide custodian, an English language learner teacher and a social worker.

Security improvements in the budget include completing the installation of cameras at all elementary schools, upgrading the camera systems at BMS and BHS, installing window security film at Berkeley Elementary School and BHS, and upgrading all exterior lighting at the elementary schools.

Every school in the district will be receiving facilities upgrades, including fencing replacement, playground equipment replacement, paging speakers installation, sidewalk repaving and bathroom renovations.