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Bellmawr BOE Okays Budget; Taxes Will Increase $66 Per Year

By: Anne Forline
Gloucester City News

During its recent meeting, the Bellmawr Board of Education (BOE) paused to acknowledge the passing of Sergeant Robert “Bobby” Swanson with a Moment of Silence.

Swanson had served the Bellmawr Police and Fire Departments and was the district’s lead DARE instructor of two decades.

Board President Jody Mangus remembered Swanson as a former board member and friend of the Bellmawr learning community.

During the business portion of the meeting, the Board voted to approve the $13,702,425 budget for the 2013-14 school year.

The Tax Impact will be an increase of 0.039, or approximately $66.44, for an average home assessed at $170,366.

Business Administrator, Amy Capriotti, outlined the budget and highlighted various appropriations, which included $10,449,110 in personnel costs, $891,927 for out-of-district tuition, and $471,979 in instructional costs.

Capriotti said that the anticipated local tax levy is $8,063,489 and the anticipated revenue from State sources totals $5,139,161.

The district saves money by entering into shared services agreements, Capriotti noted. That includes an inter-local agreement with the Borough of Bellmawr for snow removal and gas purchases; a shared services agreement for electrical services with Collingswood and an agreement with SJTP (South Jersey Technology Partnership) of Sterling High School for capital improvements.

The district also provides cafeteria services to Runnemede, which generates revenue, she said.

The district received an additional $208,638 in state aid for 2013-14. 

School Superintendent Annette Castiglione said those funds will be used to secure additional technology (Ipads, Smart boards, laptops and replacements); purchase new science curriculum; add an additional instructional technology specialist and add an additional English Language Learning (ELL) teacher.
The superintendent stated that the district currently has two ELL (formerly known as ESL, or English as a Second Language) teachers, but stated, “Our numbers are growing and we need to have another teacher.”

She further explained that the immigration population continues to grow. 

“When I first came here in 2007, there were 39 foreign language students. Now, there are over 60 and many are port of entry.”

Castiglione announced that the district also received an additional $203,333 in pre-school education aid, which will be used to establish full day Pre-K for four year olds. 

This is outside of the local money, entirely funded by the Department of Education, and is mandated because of the number of students who now receive free and reduced lunch.

“This will be a good start and put the children on a good path so by the time they are in third grade, they will be strong readers and ready for success,” she stated.

Addressing concerns if there would be a limit to the number of enrollments that the district would take, the superintendent stated that there are 72 open seats.

With the pre-school education funds, the district will add an additional pre-school teacher, paraprofessional, part-time administrative assistant as well as a parent/family liaison.

Regina Andrews-Collette, the district’s social worker, commented favorably on the addition of the parent/family liaison position by stating, “We need someone who can work with the community so we can help bridge the gap between home and school so parents will be comfortable.”

A question was asked about the out-of-district tuition costs, to which the superintended responded that those costs are for classified special education students, who have Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and cannot be educated within the district.

The superintendent further clarified that the out-of-district tuition differs from School Choice. She added, “We receive tuition from the town those students come from.”

During the business portion of the meeting, there was a lengthy discussion among the board about approving the Shared Services Agreement with SJTP Roof Services and for RFP for Construction Management Services.

Residents expressed about the bidding process and why the district did not send the roof job out for bid.

The superintendent explained the district has the option of going through the bidding process themselves, which would start an 8-12 week process.

She recently had attended a lengthy meeting with the district’s architect of record, Bob Garrison.

Every piece of the project was discussed, along with recommendations.

She set the time frame of the roofing project from June 18 to August 18.

She reiterated that SJTP is a shared services organization with another school, Sterling High School, and is very reputable.

“We have used SJTP in the past for other jobs, including windows, electrical and conversion projects,” Castiglione said.

“SJTP has already gone through the bidding process, completed the paperwork and has essentially vetted out the contractors.  We are using those bids that already SJTP has, rather than going outside and doing it ourselves. By using another district, we are piggy-backing on that.”

Addressing concerns that if the final roofing costs come in under than the $3.1 million referendum amount, then it goes back to the taxpayers, Castiglione answered.

During the discussion portion of the meeting, Bellmawr Police Chief William Walsh spoke to the BOE about eight soon-to-be installed video cameras around town. Among the areas that police will have the ability to remotely monitor are the Recreation Center and all of the schools’ parking lots.

All other business on the Board’s agenda was approved.

That included field trips, requests to fundraise and professional development.

The Board approved a resolution to amend the 2012-13 school calendar to reflect June 18 as the last day of school and June 17 as eighth grade graduation. Both will be one session days.

For a user friendly version of the Bellmawr School District’s 2013-14 Budget, go to:

The Board will convene again on Monday, April 22 at 6:00 pm for a Work Session and on Monday, April 29 at 7:00 pm for an Action Meeting. Both meetings will be held in the Bell Oaks Media Center.