Bridgewater-Raritan School Board Discusses Tax Levy and Budget

The Bridgewater-Raritan School Board convened to discuss the tentative budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, which includes a recommended 2% tax levy increase due to rising costs in personnel, benefits, transportation, and utilities. The budget presentation aimed to align district goals with expenditures, emphasizing the need for a healthy and safe learning environment, and equitable allocation of resources. Tax impact, the use of funds for full-day kindergarten, and the equalization rates between Bridgewater and Raritan were notable topics. Additionally, the board deliberated on the school calendar, addressing the inclusion of Eid as a holiday and potential adjustments to accommodate the solar eclipse.

The meeting’s focal point was the presentation of the tentative $78.4 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The proposed 2% tax levy increase became a discussion topic due to the challenges of adhering to the tax levy cap while managing escalating costs related to personnel, transportation, and utilities. The budget breakdown covered salaries and benefits, maintenance and operations, transportation, tuition, supplies, and capital projects, including new allocations for curriculum development, technology upgrades, and facility improvements.

The tax impact was scrutinized, with attendees learning that the average assessment on an unequalized house in Bridgewater was $564,500. Bridgewater’s proposed equalized tax rate was 1.27, leading to a tax increase of $46.63 for each $100,000 of equalized assessment. In contrast, Raritan’s proposed rate of 1.24 would result in a tax decrease of $99.75 for the same assessment value. Bridgewater would shoulder 86.74% of the tax burden, with Raritan taking on the remaining 13.26%.

A board member questioned the rationale behind the increase in their house assessment and the distribution of ratables between residential and commercial properties. The debate underscored the importance of budget transparency and adherence to voter intentions, particularly concerning the allocation of funds for full-day kindergarten.

In addition to fiscal concerns, the board grappled with the school calendar, weighing the merits of drafts six and seven. The choice between starting the school year on January 2nd or providing that day off and moving graduation to June 19th was at stake, with draft seven ultimately undergoing modification. The inclusion of Eid as a holiday spurred discussion about scheduling and the potential impact of inclement weather days on religious observances. The possibility of an August school year start was considered for greater flexibility.

The public comments segment revealed community engagement with a range of issues. A community member’s enthusiasm for the solar eclipse led to a suggestion for excused absences to allow students to witness the event. Another concern raised was student safety on buses, with a call for mandatory working cameras on special education buses and enhanced driver training after an incident involved a child being hit by a bus driver.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Robert Beers
School Board Officials:
Emily Calistri, Stacey Friedlander, Rebecca Hassouna, A. J. Joshi, Lanfang “Lucy” Li, Michael Pepe, Steven Singer, Barry Walker, Jennifer Loughran, Alan Iachini (District Anti-Bullying Coordinator), Michelle Munley (Affirmative Action Officer), Dr. Dan Fonder (Affirmative Action Officer)

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