Bloomfield homeowners will have to pay an average of $20 extra a month in taxes for funding of the town’s schools if the proposed budget is approved, according to Superintendent Jason Bing.
The proposal, which was approved on March 27, also assumes that a number of teaching positions will be cut, he said.
At a public hearing on the budget at the BOE meeting, Bing presented “a living document” of the 2012-13 budget, while at the same time delivering an optimistic overview of the school district for the parents in attendance at Oakview School.
The budget summary was as follows:
General Fund: $83,366,526
Special Fund: $2,543,826
Debt Service: $4,193,165
Based on this budget, homeowners with an average assessment of $280,300 will have to pay $244.17 more in taxes, or about $20 more per household per month, Bing explained.
He noted the proposed budget was a working document that was subject to change. He invited anyone who wanted to discuss or suggest changes to the budget to contact his office and set up an appointment to meet with him.
“This is my first budget for the Bloomfield school district,” he noted. “It’s a work in progress until the ballots are printed in mid-April. If you see things that work in other districts, I urge you to get in touch with my office or [School Business Administrator] Mr. [Michael] Derderian’s office and let us know.”
In addition to the increase in taxes for residents, Bing said a number foreign language positions and one “AT,” or Academically Talented, teacher position at the elementary school level would be cut. The high school AT teacher position would not be cut.
Two parents and four children came forward to protest the cuts.
“That’s an incredibly poor message you’re giving [the AT students], saying academic excellence is not a priority,” parent Laura Heyman said angrily. “When I was a kid they sat the AT kids in the back of the classroom or used them as assistant teachers. Academically talented students deserve the opportunity to learn. This scares the hell out of me.”
Later in the meeting BOE President Mary Shaughnessy assured attendees that “I don’t take any pleasure in asking for an increase [in taxes] but it takes a lot of money to run a school.”
She added, “Bloomfield is second from the bottom in terms of salary and benefits for teachers and total student spending in school districts of similar size,” she said. “I am not proud of that.”
Both Shaughnessy and Bing noted that the Bloomfield school district has been underfunded for three consecutive years by the state government. Shaughnessy said that she has lobbied in Trenton, as recently as this month, to fight for the reimbursement of Bloomfield’s allocated funds. She also said she has written
“I beg you to write,” said Bing emphatically to the parents at the meeting. “We have been underfunded by $16 million over the past three years. If that’s not enough impetus to write to your local representative, I don’t know what is.”
Bing said that the state of New Jersey has not provided resources to fund mandated programs, such as the Anti-Bullying Act, despite the fact that all schools were required to implement them.
“The harassment/intimidation/bullying law is a good example,” said Bing. “It has cost districts between $10,000 and $40,000. In New Jersey, about 85% of the budget is dictated by the state.”
Though last year's budget had a 0% increase, Derderian pointed out that "the majority of state aid went for tax relief. That puts us in a vulnerable position this year."
When it came time for the vote, seven board members present voted yes to the proposed budget. Joe Lopez voted no. Robert De Marino was absent.
The school budget will be presented at next week's township council meeting, Monday April 2 at 7:00 pm.