Gloucester Township Public Schools hosted its public hearing for the adoption of the 2020-2021 budget during a virtual board of education meeting April 27.
According to Assistant Business Administrator Janice Grassia, the total school budget for the upcoming year is $122,265,714, a net increase of $4,123,252 from the prior year. The majority of that increase is due to the $4 million the district received from the state to expand its preschool program.
Following approval from the board at the meeting, the new tax rate was increased to 1.173 for the upcoming year, an increase of approximately $28 annually for township residents with the average assessed property value of $188,000. The increase works out to an additional $2.32 per month.
Last year, the district completed roof replacements at both the Union Valley and Gloucester Township Elementary School buildings. New gym floors were installed at Union Valley and James L. Lilley elementary schools.
Grassia explained during the meeting’s public presentation that the budget allows the district to continue all existing programs and services for students from kindergarten through eighth grade and make changes to the middle school exploratory programs.
Meanwhile, the preschool program will be the subject of large improvements in terms of state aid.
“We’re very excited for the expansion of the preschool program next year,” Grassia said. “We will be going from approximately 140 students this current fiscal year to 320 students next year, again, at no cost to taxpayers.”
Another goal of the district is to maintain and improve district facilities, accomplished with the installation of security vestibules. This summer, security vestibules will be installed at the district’s three middle schools as well as Loring-Flemming Elementary School.
According to the new budget, the remaining seven elementary schools in Gloucester Township will have security vestibules installed next summer to ensure all schools can screen visitors and control who is entering the building.
Superintendent John Bilodeau said in an interview earlier this year that the middle schools were to be done first since their buildings house roughly 40 percent of the district’s student population. Meanwhile, Loring-Flemming will also receive the security vestibule this year since it is on the same grounds as Glen Landing Middle School.
Additional facility improvements in the budget include replacement of the fire alarm system at Gloucester Township Elementary School as well as resurfacing of the parking lot at Glendora Elementary School.
During public participation, the board heard multiple requests for information regarding the district’s stance on clubs, sports and extracurricular activities as remote learning continues.
According to two residents, spring coaches and club advisors were allegedly notified they would not be compensated during remote learning..
“The answer to that question is that the state legislature recently passed a law … that provides for payment for school employees who were contracted for stipend as if the school year had not ended,” Bilodeau said.
“For coaches and stipend club advisors, Gloucester Township will be abiding by the law and paying for those who have been board approved for a stipend.”
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Monday, May 18, at Ann A. Mullen Middle School. Residents can visit the district’s website in the event meeting changes are made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.