Brick Township's Board of Education has proposed a budget for the 2013-14 school year that will rise by 0.9 percent over the current school year.
The board unanimously voted in favor of sending the $147 million spending plan to the county superintendent of schools for approval before final adoption. The budget calls for a total tax levy of $98,525,693, up from $97,160,762 last year.
"We feel it's a responsible budget for the students of Brick Township as well as the taxpayers," said James Edwards, the district's business administrator.
The budget funds a full-day kindergarten program, numerous revamps of district curriculum and technology advances that will allow teachers to track students' progress through their academic careers.
But the main reason for the increase in the budget are two factors that are largely out of the board's control: a higher workman's compensation premium and the obligation of the district to set aside an extra $300,000 to compensate employees for their unused sick time cashouts upon retirement, said board member Larry Reid, who chairs the board's finance committee.
"Our school district has claims for workman's compensation insurance that is 48 percent higher than the average school district," said Reid. "Out of those 330 schools, we have the tenth worst rating," leading to an increase of $670,775 in premiums this year.
As for the increase in the amount set aside for unused sick time payouts: "You can see that it is impacting our budget, and it's unsustainable," said Reid. "It doesn't go on in private industry."
Superintendent Dr. Walter Uszenski said the district is looking at how to tackle the workman's compensation issue.
The unused sick time issue is more of a statewide issue, officials said.
But despite the relatively small budgetary increase, the district will fund its full day kindergarten program as well as $2.2 million in capital improvements, including parking lot repairs and replacements, a new dust collection system at Lake Riviera Middle School, lunch table replacements at Osbornville Elementary School, new exterior siding at Brick Township High School, the refinishing of several gym floors, air conditioning upgrades and new doors for the Brick Memorial High School auditorium.
Also included in the budget are several educational initiatives that will directly benefit students, including the addition of six new advanced placement courses at each high school, 11 new staff members for the kindergarten program, a new K-5 math program, a new K-3 reading program, a K-8 online reading program and a new teacher evaluation system. The district will also have a second athletic director, and will fund PSATs for high school sophomores.
Better technology funded in the budget will also allow teachers to track students' progress from K-8, Uszenski said.
Improvements to the district's security will include additional security cameras and an expansion of the district's intercom system.
Given the improvements, "We are very proud that the budget is less than a percent," said Edwards.
Based on the 2012 tax base, the average Brick homeowner can expect their taxes to rise $8.06 per $100,000 of assessed value. That amounts to about $24 for a homeowners whose property is assessed at $300,000.
Given the reduction in tax base from Sandy, Edwards estimated an additional $0.80 cents per $100,000 in value could be added.
The budget "covers all of our students," said board Vice President John Talty.
"There is nothing being cut or being reduced, and the additions we made are important additions," he said.