Berlin 2019 Year in Review: Day Two

After another quick 12 months, yet another year has come to a close. Berlin Borough residents have plenty to look back on, from municipal and school events to community events. Meanwhile, numerous organizations — with the help of borough officials — are transforming downtown Berlin.

In recapping the top moments from the past year, The Sun is taking a three-day look back at the key moments that shaped 2019 in Berlin Borough:

Berlin Borough passes budget

Berlin Borough passed its 2019-2020 budget at its council meeting April 11 at borough hall. Council had unanimously passed the preliminary budget in March.

According to Chief Financial Officer Debbie DiMattia, borough residents with the average assessed house value of $233,600 can expect a $53 increase in taxes. No residents spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting with regard to the budget. But Mayor Jim Bilella did voice the fact that he would have preferred a smaller tax increase for borough residents.

“In looking at things, I think there’s an opportunity missed here in providing a lower tax increase,” Bilella said. “We had significant savings in our health-care line for our retirees … we also had increased revenue, increased surplus. We’re only using 50 percent of our surplus this year; last year we used 70 percent.”

“We could have bettered our surplus savings, not use as much of our surplus going forward, and still provided the residents some tax relief.”

BCS approves budget, discusses superintendent search

The Berlin Borough Board of Education passed the 2019-2020 proposed budget at its meeting 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.

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 at 5 percent and energy at 3 percent.

Campisi said the school currently works off one bond, issued approximately 13 years ago. The board anticipates it to be paid off within the next five years.

Eastern Regional passes 2019-2020 budget

The Eastern Regional Board of Education unanimously passed its 2019-2020 budget May 1 at the board of education offices.

The budget is $38,855,366 for the upcoming school year, which includes $38,380,182 of general funds, $475,184 of special revenue funds and no debt service funds. The local tax levy is $26,352,672, a decrease of $118,770 from the previous year.

Based on the year’s numbers, Voorhees Township will contribute approximately 79.2 percent of Eastern’s taxes, while Berlin will be responsible for 16.6 percent and Gibbsboro approximately 4 percent, according to Business Administrator and Board Secretary Diana Schiraldi.

For the yearly impact, Voorhees Township residents with the average assessed property value of $258,959 saw a decrease of approximately $16. Berlin Borough residents with the average assessed property value of $233,600 saw an increase of approximately $59, while Gibbsboro residents saw a decrease of $134.

Eastern superintendent retiring

After nearly two decades, Superintendent Harold Melleby Jr. is retiring from the Eastern Regional High School District. Melleby served as a principal at Eastern from 2001 to 2005 before serving as superintendent.

While at Eastern, Melleby said he’s become the biggest fan of the school for a myriad of reasons.

“I tell people that I take a lot of pride in the fact that Eastern is a comprehensive high school; we have something for every student,” he noted. “If you’re a high-powered student, we have 27 Advanced Placement courses. If you have special needs, we have great programs for special needs students.”

“In the arts, the music program and concerts and arts in themselves are fantastic, and in athletics we’re the envy of a lot of schools in a lot of ways,” Melleby added. “And plus we’re the home of the champions. It all starts with providing the services like coaching and athletic training.”

Melleby said he was more than thankful for all the work that board of education members, faculty and staff members, students, administration and others have done to make Eastern a destination high school for some South Jersey students.

Honoring history

Seventy-five years ago June 6, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch on the beaches of Normandy, France, to battle Nazi Germany in the World War II fight for freedom.

Many would not come home. And those who would could never forget.

Seventy-five years later, the Berlin VFW, AMNAC Post 6253 hosted a D-Day anniversary dance June 6 at its building in Berlin Borough to honor the courage and bravery of those who gave their lives.

Louis Neirle, a World War II veteran who served in the United States Navy for 18 months, had the idea over a year ago to have some sort of a gathering for South Jersey and Philadelphia-area veterans of World War II to be honored by fellow service members.

The Berlin native was not involved in D-Day, but wanted to thank those who were.

“That’s why I’m doing this, to bless all the guys that went before me and saved my butt,” said Neirle. “I’ve been wanting to do this for the past several years and finally it was able to actually come to life because of the 75th anniversary.”

Thanks to his hard work and that of the Berlin VFW, more than 100 veterans and their family members attended the anniversary dance to honor and thank those who stormed the beaches of Normandy or served in World War II.

Berlin Community School names Superintendent

After months of searching for its next superintendent, Berlin Community School’s board of education approved a three-year contract at its June 20 meeting.

Having served as the interim assistant superintendent since March after the board voted to relieve the previous superintendent of her duties at its Feb. 21 meeting, Joseph Campisi was approved to become Berlin Community School’s next superintendent. All board members approved the decision except Jenine Del Palazzo, who abstained from the vote.

Having already been approved by the executive county superintendent, Campisi’s contract runs from July 1 to June 30, 2022, with an annual salary of $130,000 each year. Merit goals that will be established in the future by the board, Campisi and the executive county superintendent remain the only way salary can increase, according to board President Jocelyn Lewis.

Campisi expressed gratitude toward the board and public for believing he is capable of helping lead BCS.

“Over the past few months, I’ve come to realize what a special place BCS is …  and I really am honored to become part of the BCS family,” said Campisi. “This is a really great school and a really great community. I’m looking forward to spending many years here, working with everybody, moving the kids forward and establishing and keeping strong relationships with different stakeholder groups.”