With a loss of $1.5 million in state aid and the need to replace nine rubberized floors in the district looming overhead, the Washington Township Board of Education passed its 2019-2020 budget.
Superintendent Joseph Bollendorf outlined the goals for the new budget as: continue to provide a safe environment conducive to learning; continue to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population while maintaining high academic standards; work to maintain an average class size of 25, with an attempt to keep primary grades at lower numbers where possible; continue to provide and enhance a dynamic and comprehensive program that will prepare students for the 21st century; continue to provide a level of services and programs that support all the district goals in compliance with the Common Core Standards; minimize the tax impact, while maximizing the efficient use of tax dollars; and ensure that staffing is commensurate with enrollment.
For the 2019-2020 school year, the district approved an operating budget of $145.9 million, down .03 percent from last year’s budget. With the approved budget comes a rise in taxes for residents. Folks with an average assessed home valued at $210,358 will see their annual taxes for the school district increase approximately $43 for the year.
Part of the budget slashing came from reorganizing central administration. Bollendorf spoke on the matter.
“We recognize the fact that staffing reductions are probably going to be one of the greatest things we’ll be faced with in the coming years with continued reduction in state aid,” he said. “I think it’s important we start at central administration if we’re going to go down that path.”
The board approved the elimination of two and a half central administrative positions and the elimination of three and a half secretarial staff positions. With the reorganization at central administration, the board also approved the creation of one full-time administrative position, one full-time support position, the relocation of a secretarial position, creation of five part-time clerical assistants and one work study position for a high school student. This gave the board a net savings of $241,793.
With the approved budget the district will also replace the cafeteria tables at Wedgwood Elementary School; begin the final phase of replacing lockers at Orchard Valley Middle School and Chestnut Ridge Middle School, begin replacing lockers at the high school and purchase new musical instruments for the high school.
In terms of transportation, the board approved the following: the replacement of one van that aged out; the replacement of one handicapped van that aged out; one new handicapped van; four 54-passenger buses that aged out and new cameras for the four buses.
Among other things the board approved were door replacements at Hurffville Elementary School and the 9-10 wing at the high school; replacing the HVAC at Bells Elementary School, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and the high school and replacing a roof section of the high school core.
The board was most proud of finding a way to fund the replacement of the nine rubberized floors that were laden with mercury without having raise taxes to the 2 percent cap or go out to referendum. The board had $1 million allocated for the project initially, but will supplement that with $2.16 million from the capital reserve to give a total of $3.16 million in an effort to complete the project as soon as possible.
The board voted unanimously to pass the budget on second reading.
In other news:
- Core sampling was done for the nine floors that contained mercury to find out if the mercury seeped into the concrete underneath. In a letter from Remington and Vernick, the district’s engineers, it was determined there was no mercury found in the concrete underneath the rubberized floors. A copy of the letter is posted on wtps.org.
“This really changes the landscape as it relates to the remediation process and the cost associated with that process to the district. It also helps ensure the project can be completed on time. It’s great news for the district,” Bollendorf said.
- Bollendorf mentioned the district plans to enter a partnership with the Philadelphia Soul arena football team. Players will come to events for the district and support the district with prizes like tickets to games.
- The next board of education meeting is scheduled for May 28 at 7 p.m. at the Eileen Abbott Central Administration Building.