More students, trailers increase Monroe budget

New staff positions included in tentative plan for 2006-07


Staff Writer

MonroeMonroe MONROE – As student enrollment continues to rise, school taxes are expected to increase as well under a proposed budget for the 2006-07 school year.

School Business Administrator Wayne Holliday declined to release a tax rate based on that budget, as officials were still awaiting state aid figures yesterday. Without documentation of all the district’s expected revenue, Holliday said he felt it would be irresponsible to announce the tax rate.

Last year’s general fund budget of $62.6 million had a tax levy of $53 million, and raised the tax rate by 5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $150,000 paid $76 more in school taxes.

This year’s proposed general fund budget of $70.8 million has a tax levy of $61 million.

Last year, the district received about $4.23 million in state aid, and most districts were anticipating levels to remain the same this year.

Board of Education President Kathy Kolupanowich said the budget creates 62.08 new staff positions, including paraprofessionals, resource room teachers, basic skills teachers, a guidance counselor, social worker, school psychologist, custodian, security guard and additional bus drivers.

Officials expect approximately 350 additional students next year.

“Everything that we need is to deal with the growth,” Kolupanowich said.

Residents will also be asked to approve a second question on the election ballot April 18, which deals with the leasing of portable classrooms and portable gym space, Kolupanowich said.

The board is looking to add a total of 24 portable classrooms, which will be located at Barclay Brook, Brookside and Applegarth schools, as well as the high school, Kolupanowich said.

In addition to the trailers, the district hopes to add two large group rooms – one at Applegarth and another at the high school.

The portable rooms would give the district 29,000 square feet of additional space at a cost of just under $2 million, which would include staff, desks, chairs and books for the trailers.

Last year, the district added 14 new trailers. If the budget is approved, Monroe will have a total of 55 portable classrooms.

In January, voters approved a $26.8 million referendum for a new elementary school on Applegarth Road, set to open in September 2008.

That came on the heels of approval from the State House Commission that allowed the township to trade 152 acres and $1.127 million in exchange for 35 acres in Thompson Park, on which a new high school building will be constructed.

The new high school, which would be located on Perrineville Road, across School House Road from the existing high school, would hold 1,800 students. Officials hope to complete the building by 2011.

If and when both schools are completed, Monroe will have six elementary schools in addition to the middle school and high school.

Officials are confident the schools will enable the district to handle the steadily increasing enrollment.

Kolupanowich said the district must also adjust its transportation structure to keep up with population growth in certain sections of town.

The budget appropriates funds for the purchase of six new 54-passenger buses.

“I think that is done on an ongoing basis,” Kolupanowich said. “Every time that a new development comes in, or we have people moving into a certain area, then we have to look at the transportation. If the buses are now filled, we need to reroute our buses.”

According to the budget resolution, $436,000 would be appropriated for the purchase of equipment related to classroom instruction and facility maintenance.

In addition, improvements to the roof at the high school would cost $255,000.

Kolupanowich said the high school is also adding academic programs such as Latin, Italian III and honors Italian II, college-level business, organization and management, an electronics and robotics elective, and several sports programs.

“With our growing population, we want our kids to get involved, and there’s only so many sports that we have,” Kolupanowich said. “So the more that we can add onto our programs, the more our kids will get involved.”

This year was the first the school had an ice hockey program. Though it was started as a club team, Kolupanowich said there was so much interest in the sport that the school will have its own varsity hockey team next year.

The club team practiced and played home games at the Princeton Sports Center in South Brunswick, and Kolupanowich said officials hope that will continue next year.

The school will also add a boys varsity lacrosse team and a girls varsity volleyball team.

The boys varsity basketball team experienced its finest season this year, going 24-5 and making the Central Jersey Group III final. Senior A.J. Rudowitz finished his high school career as the Falcons’ all-time leading scorer.

Kolupanowich said there was a buzz surrounding the team all year, and that the boys soccer and football teams also had excellent seasons.

“The kids were phenomenal in supporting each other,” Kolupanowich said. “School spirit in our district is really on the rise.”