BCS approves budget, discusses superintendent search

The budget calls for an increase of $188 for the average homeowner in Berlin Borough. Also during the meeting, the board president stated that the superintendent search is progressing and the board may host a community forum at the end of May

The Berlin Borough Board of Education passed the 2019-2020 proposed budget at its meeting Thursday, April 25, in the Media Center at Berlin Community School. The budget comes with a 2.14 percent tax levy cap increase of $156,689.

For a Berlin resident with the average assessed home value of $233,600 in 2019, taxes for Berlin Community School are expected to increase $188 a year, or approximately $16 per month.

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Acting Superintendent Joseph Campisi held a presentation regarding the board’s considerations and objectives with the additional funding through the budget.

“There’s a lot of considerations when putting together a district budget,” Campisi said. “There’s what we want to continue and maintain, there’s want we want to enhance and implement, and then there’s a crossover of both of them.”

Campisi said the board is looking forward to continuing all current academic programs, extracurricular activities and existing technology initiatives, while also wanting to increase the STEAM program while furthering restorative practices within the school.

Additionally, the presentational indicated that the board wants to enhance or continue to implement partnerships with the community, Sustainable New Jersey and the school’s Equity and Cultural Proficiency work.

In total, the budget for Berlin Community School for 2019-2020 is approximately $12.8 million. According to the presentation, salaries and benefits make up about 75 percent of the school’s budget each year. Transportation makes up about 6 percent, with supplies and textbooks being 5 percent and energy being 3 percent.

Campisi said the school is currently working off one bond at this time, which was issued approximately 13 years ago. The board anticipates it to be paid off within the next five years.

“The interest (in the bond) has gone down, and this is why you see a decrease of $20,000,” Campisi said. “So basically, when it comes to the debt service total, it’s going to be about $500,000 less each year that will come from the borough to the bonds, towards the debt service. So you’re on the homestretch of paying that off.”

After the board passed the budget unanimously, board president Jocelyn Lewis praised the board for the work regarding the budget.

Lewis stated the board had several goals with this year’s budget.

“We set out with three goals for this budget; that was to close a $340,000 deficit,” Lewis said. “We also had the goal to maintain classroom sizes to what we know in this district to be the norm. And [another goal] was to avoid a referendum that would ask taxpayers to increase their contributions to the school. This budget satisfies those goals and it closes the $340,000 deficit without asking for a referendum to increase over that 2 percent… and it maintains class sizes to ensure student achievement.”

“This budget prioritizes our students,” Lewis added.

After the public hearing regarding the budget, the board continued with its regularly scheduled meeting.

President of the Berlin Borough Education Association Dali Kilpatrick spoke during public comment, thanking the board for its support of the teachers and community regarding recent changes in administration.

“The BBEA would like to take a moment to thank each member of the board of education for listening to us and taking our concerns seriously over the past year,” Kilpatrick said. “We would also like to express our sincere gratitude toward the BCS community for always supporting us.”

Additionally, Kilpatrick thanked administration with the district for having felt more respected in the past two months than they had in the past two years.

“We are continuing to move in a positive direction, and we feel like we are heading back to the amazing BCS we were not too long ago,” Kilpatrick said. “Much of this positive change is thanks to Dr. Richards and Mrs. Groark who have effectively helped our elementary and middle schools heal during this transitional time, yet kept us advancing towards our district goals.”

Kilpatrick also thanked Campisi for his support over the past six weeks since becoming acting superintendent.

Three additional teachers spoke, representing different grade levels at BCS, thanking the board for its support and thanking the administration for its leadership.

During the meeting, the board passed a resolution reorganizing administrative positions, to be in effect July 1. The position of school principal was abolished; the position of assistant principal was abolished; the position of supervisor of instruction, achievement and student activities was abolished; and the position of supervisor of special services was abolished.

Additionally, a motion to approve Kristin Groark as middle school principal for the 2019-2020 school year was tabled.

The board did not comment on the reasons for the moves.

Lastly, Lewis provided the community with an update of the continued search for a superintendent.

According to Lewis, approximately 40 people applied for the position of superintendent. Lewis said the board has narrowed the search to six candidates, with interviews set for the week of Monday, May 6.

Ideally, Lewis says the board will narrow the first round down to four candidates, to begin a second round of interviews for the board with the remaining candidates the following week, before hosting a community forum with the final two or three candidates to allow the public to have feedback. No date has been set for the community forum.

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