While the budget is requesting a 1 percent increase, Superintendent Robert Fisicaro said taxpayers can expect to see a lower tax payment to the local district. For an average assessed home of $204,500, this equates to roughly a $26.50 annual decrease.
“Our debts continued to decrease, the preschool expansion aid has offset some of the costs that were funded by the local budget, we are losing $92,000 in state aid, but we also saw an increase in ratables,” said Fisicaro. “Total Turf had a five-year abatement on their property that has now expired.”
The budget was later approved by the board and was sent to the county for approval.
Fiscaro added students’ test scores have been on a steady increase compared to when the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers was first introduced. On average for 2018, 59 percent of the students in the math section and 67 percent of students in the English section are meeting or exceeding expectations – an 11 percent and 15 percent increase, respectively, from 2014.
He added the numbers also show how dedicated teachers are to the students’ education.
“We’re in a very strong position when it comes to respect for our taxpayers and achievement of our students,” he said.
For the upcoming school year, he said the district aims to promote mental health education, improve school safety and empower students’ ownership of learning.
In mental health, a statute was passed in the legislature for all public school districts in the state to educate students about mental health, promote self-care and responsibility for their own mental health, negative impacts of stigma and cultural attitudes toward mental illnesses and to place mental health in the curriculum, effective September 2020.
Fisicaro said the district is looking to employ a full-time psychologist and a behaviorist, make the J. Mason Tomlin school counselor district-wide and hire a five-day-a-week counselor for JMT, explore adding mental health education in the encore (music, art, etc.) rotation, among other ideas.
Fisicaro said the district will seek to maintain its school resource officers, upgrade technology, reconfigure main entrances, implement additional training for staff and other initiatives for internal knowledge only.
He hopes for the district to tighten policies on excessive student tardiness and unexcused absences, continue to develop the “I Can” statements to build student ownership, develop better homework practices to assist students in strengthening current skills, and emphasize students’ consistency in effort and desire to improve their skills.
In the near future, the district will be exploring a bond referendum of up to about $11 million to make Sewell Elementary School ADA-compliant and upgrade classrooms, roofs and all-purpose rooms at JMT and Centre City schools. Fisicaro said the bond would come “with no increased cost to the taxpayers because of our debt services that will be coming off the books very soon“ and the district will develop a communication plan by the summer. It’s hoping to get the referendum on a ballot in December.
Fiscaro also added the district will be conducting similar mercury tests that neighboring Washington Township and other districts have done, but he doesn’t see any issues arising from the results.
“We’re in a fortunate position because, just a short time ago, we were looking at major losses in state aid and we’re still going to lose state aid in the future, and those challenges will still be there,” said Fisicaro. “But we’re fortunate enough the preschool expansion aid has helped us substantially and having debts decrease has helped us. Ratables increased, and so we’ve enjoyed a little bit of a good stretch when it comes to school taxes.”
A public hearing is scheduled for May 6 beginning at 7 p.m. at the Dr. H. Simmerman Administration Building in Barnsboro. Any changes made in the budget will be reflected in The Mantua Sun.
In other news:
- The May 13 board meeting was rescheduled to May 6.
- School resource officers Bob Leash and Ed Wiley, from the Mantua Township Police Department, were formally welcomed to the district.
- Fifth-grade teachers from JMT gave a presentation to show the board a day in the life of a fifth-grader.