The Black Horse Pike Regional School District board of education met for a virtual session May 7, hosting a public hearing on the 2020-’21 budget.
The financial plan was unanimously approved by members.
The total budget for next school year is $80,617,409, with a tax levy impact of $34,724,474, a 2.42-percent decrease from the previous year. All three sending districts will see a decrease in their expected annual school taxes.
“This is due to Timber Creek bond’s having been paid off, so there are no additional debt payments that are required under our school budget,” Business Administrator Frank Rizzo said during the budget presentation.
Residents of Gloucester Township with the average assessed home value of $188,000 will see a decrease of approximately $34 in their school taxes. Bellmawr residents with the average property value of $167,198 will see a decrease of approximately $21 and residents of Runnemede will see a decrease of about $22.
For the upcoming fiscal year, the district will also see an increase in state aid; the $35,412,255 contribution from the state Department of Education is a 2.54-percent increase over the prior year.
Through the budget, the district is supporting various new courses, programs and curriculum, according to the presentation, such as a career investment program with Camden County College and a student mentor program.
The district also is preparing for the opening of its CARE Program at Camden County College, a capital project that was approved during a board meeting in January.
“This program will provide services for students that focus on comforting students beyond their academic needs,” Rizzo said.
The Sun previously covered the district’s plan to renovate the third floor of the Wolverton Library, with 2,000 square feet set aside for classroom space and approximately 800 square feet designated for counseling and office space.
“The CARE program really places an emphasis on educating our learners about what they can do beyond their academic needs,” Superintendent Brian Repici explained in an interview earlier this year with The Sun. “We want to ensure that we’re providing the building blocks for their social, emotional and behavioral success. It’s going to be therapeutic based.”
The district expects the program to be operational this fall.
The budget presentation, which can be found on the district website, also highlights facility improvements across the Triton, Highland and Timber Creek Regional school buildings under the last two budgets. Through the recently passed budget, improvements are once again expected for the three schools, including a new cafeteria floor at Triton, the first round of hallway locker replacements at Highland and partial roof coating at Timber Creek.
During public participation, the board addressed various concerns from parents across the three schools regarding senior and graduation activities set to take place before COVID-19.
While parents and community members are eager to see some sort of action to recognize seniors graduating from high school, the board pointed out that it has been working with various groups and local organizations, as well as law enforcement, to find a safe and legal way to celebrate graduation.
“We are trying to do every angle that we can … We keep coming at it with ideas,” said board member Kevin Bucceroni. “We can only do what we’re allowed to within the law; we’re trying our best and we will continue to try our best.”
Bucceroni stated that he and other board members have had discussions with the Gloucester Township Police Department, Mayor David R. Mayer, the state attorney general and others to contemplate ideas for congratulating seniors. But virtually all ideas would be prohibited at this point, mostly due to the limit on public gatherings.
“Ours kids’ safety is number one,” added Bucceroni.
The superintendent said he understands the frustration of many within the community about the current situation regarding school functions, adding that the board and administration will continue to work with state officials to find a solution that recognizes seniors.
“I fully appreciate and understand the emotion that [parents] have about their kids not being able to walk across the graduation stage, as is expected at the end of their formal years of schooling; we all get it,” Repici noted.
“It sickens us that we are in this situation and that we can’t celebrate, at this point anyway, like what’s been done in the past.”
Repici said principals at the three schools have been working with teachers and class advisors to come up with ideas.