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$197 Million Board of Education Budget Up For Public Vote

Three Candidates Running Uncontested, But Voters Still Have a Say on the School Budget
Charlie Kratovil

Editor's Note: Registered voters can vote in today's school election at their regular polling locations between 7am and 9pm.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Voters in the Hub City will decide whether to give their seal of approval to the New Brunswick Board of Education's 2014-2015 budget, as approved at the board's March 25 meeting.

The $198 million budget, and in particular the $27 million to be raised from local property taxes, will be put to city voters tomorrow in the form of a ballot question.

In addition, the Board of Education anticipates $123 million in state aid from the New Jersey government, and another $6 million in federal aid.

Last year, voters overwhelmingly approved an identical tax levy as part of a similar overall budget.

If more voters cast ballots in support of the budget than against it, it will be formally adopted.  If not, the budget will be sent to the City Council for further cuts to be made.

There is no organized opposition to the budget, but some are worried that an anticipated low turnout means the vote could go either way.

This is only the city's third school board election in history, and due to the Passover holiday, the election was moved to a Wednesday.

Further, three candidates are running unopposed for three open seats on the school board, and none have been actively campaigning to get out the vote.

The New Brunswick Education Association, the union representing most of the workers in the school system, tweeted a message in support of the budget this afternoon.

"#NBPS 2014-15 Budget Vote tomorrow! Make sure you exercise your right. Support OUR children," read the message.

The budget estimates that the city's schools will serve a population of 7,700 students full-time, 200 more than in the previous year's budget. 

According to the budget, the average cost per student will be $17,453.  That figure has risen by roughly $1,000 each year over the past several budgets.

For the 2014-2015 academic year, the nine-member Board of Education proposed $66.9 million in general expenses, those that fund the day-to-day activities of the district, up from $64.9 million the year before.

Capital expenditures, on the other hand, constitute long-term investments that a school district makes such as investing in new buildings and infrastructure.

Capital expenditures can also include things like laboratory equipment, vehicles, or laptop computers.  Capital spending is anticipated to stay at $4.1 million, down from $8.7 million the year before, and $14.7 million in 2012-2013.

One of the major increases in spending comes in pre-school spending, as the board plans to spend an additional $4 million after expanding the number of classrooms.

"That increase is mostly for the increased costs for additional classrooms of children," said Richard Jannarone, Board of Education Administrator.  "We are anticipating opening up an additional ten classrooms next year."