Pending approval by the executive county superintendent, the budget raises the tax rate to 1.088, bringing the district school tax to $2,542 for Berlin Borough residents with the average assessed property value of $233,700. The rise reflects a $45 increase in taxes for the next year, or approximately $4 per month.
According to a presentation by Superintendent Joseph Campisi, the district received $4,151,015 in state aid for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, an increase of approximately 4 percent from the previous year. The district has received increases in state aid over the past four years.
The total budget for the upcoming year is $13,192,285. Campisi said during the virtual meeting that the district will be able to continue and/or enhance all existing academic programs and co-curricular activities. Meanwhile, it will be able to hire a new special education teacher through the approved budget and bring two part-time teachers on full time in order to meet student needs.
The district will utilize funds to improve fifth grade as a “transitional grade,” as students go from the elementary to the middle school.
According to the meeting presentation, the district expects to remain within a 1 percent increase or decrease when it comes to school enrollment for the upcoming school year. Current projections indicate a drop from 818 to 816 for the upcoming year.
Following the public hearing, the board discussed the effect of Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order to reopen parks and playgrounds. Regarding playgrounds and fields on the grounds of Berlin Community School, Campisi said he recommends staying the course of keeping things closed.
“When we watch the governor each day, he talks about flattening the curve and that seems to be in North Jersey and Central Jersey,” he explained. “The increases he talks about are more south.
“We have wonderful fields and playgrounds and it’s nice days, but I worry about going back out too soon and opening our fields and playgrounds up just now. I think we need to be overly cautious.”
According to Solicitor Dan Long, the majority of what his office has seen from South Jersey is that “for the most part” walking trails are what will be opened first, while most playgrounds and other closed areas with equipment that can be touched will remain closed for the time being.
During the meeting, board President Jocelyn Lewis asked the superintendent how aware the administration is of the amount of work assigned to students, as well as how much is completed, while remote learning continues.
According to Campisi, the two principals at BCS are made aware of all announcements and assignments through Google classroom. The administration also continues to check lesson plans.
The next scheduled board meeting is Wednesday, May 20, at 7 p.m. The meeting will be conducted remotely through Zoom, unless the district is able to open before that date.