Bellmawr and Gloucester City are among the top 10 towns in Camden County for 2016, according to South Jersey Magazine. Every year, the magazine ranks its top towns by looking at factors that make “South Jersey such a great place to live, work and play.”
Bellmawr and Gloucester City made the list of Top Ten by County. Bellmawr ranked seventh and Gloucester City came in tenth.
This year, the top three spots for the Top 25 Big Towns went to:
In 2015, Bellmawr placed last in 25th of the Top Towns category, but didn’t make the cut this year. Last year, Bellmawr came in sixth for Top Ten by County and Gloucester City was ranked ninth.
South Jersey magazine explained how it compiles its annual list: Each year for our annual Top Towns rankings we take a close look at the factors that make South Jersey such a great place to live, work and play. To do so, we’ve collected data from the state police, the state department of local government services and the state department of education. We then devised a formula that combined average property value and taxes, crime incidents reported per 1,000 residents, and high school performance (which took into consideration SAT scores, the number of AP classes offered and graduation rates). Towns are ranked in two categories: more than 10,000 population (big towns) and under 10,000 population (small towns).
To read South Jersey Magazine’s full report on this year’s top towns, click here.
Young Adult Services Librarian, Barbra Ayes, holds an award she received at the New Jersey Library Association’s Annual Conference in Atlantic City on Tuesday May 17, 2016. Ayes was honored for her community outreach work at the local high schools in the Bellmawr area.
In presenting the award, Devlin, related how high school students at Triton High School in the Black Horse Regional District honored Ayes with their Hometown Hero award at a home football game this past season. Ayes reports the occasion was really special because her eight-year-old granddaughter, Isabel, escorted her onto the field for the award.
During the last two Gloucester City Board of Education (BOE) meetings, there has been a large, public show of support for two staff members who were rumored to be losing their positions in the district.
The two staff members are school nurse, Linda Stewart, and homeless liaison, Jackie Berg.
While presenting the 2016-17 budget, Business Administrator/Board Secretary, Peg McDonnell stated that the budget did not project staffing cuts other than some retirement vacancies. Later in the meeting, a teacher asked for further clarification about eliminated positions since McDonnell stated that there wouldn’t be any budget cuts.
In response, school superintendent, Joe Rafferty, said: “There are issues with positions that were retained out of the RIF [reduction in force] from last year that should have been done but were not done. The current budget is not where the RIF came from.”
An email was sent to Peg McDonnell on May 11 asking if a vote had been taken to either retain or eliminate Stewart’s position and she responded that Stewart was included in the Board approved 2017 personnel listing.
During the regular BOE meeting on May 10, there was a large crowd in attendance to support Jackie Berg.
Berg received a Rice notice, which state law requires that public employees receive prior to any discussion of their job
Among those who spoke on Berg’s behalf were her husband, a teachers’ union representative, and co-workers.
Berg directly addressed the school board and said she had a meeting with Mr. Rafferty and was told that her contract went through June, 2016. After serving 20 years in the district as homeless liaison, Berg wanted to know where this position was going to go and she stated that she wanted to continue her employment.
“In the past, staff jobs have been altered and changed, but their benefits and salary were never affected. I ask for the opportunity to continue in my job so I can continue to serve the community of Gloucester City,” Berg stated.
After she spoke, Berg received a standing ovation.
The BOE went into Executive Session and when the Board reconvened, several motions were voted on. One motion was to affirm the findings concerning two HIBs (Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying). One incident was found not to be a HIB and the second incident was found to be a HIB.
The BOE also voted on three motions relating to Berg.
The first motion abolished the position of Health and Social Services Coordinator effective June 30, 2016. On the second motion, the BOE voted to establish the position of District Liaison for the Education of Homeless Students effective July 1, 2016. On the third motion, the BOE voted to establish Jackie Berg in the position as District Liaison for the Education of Homeless Students effective July 1 at her current salary.
Following the vote, Berg thanked the BOE by saying: “I will continue to serve every day to the best of my ability: the students, the families and the children of the Gloucester City School District.”
Rafferty then stated that three names needed to be added to the list of staff renewals for 2016-17 and those names were Helen Whitcraft, Doug Ziegler, and Jackie Berg.
Rafferty also said that on May 10 [the day of the Board meeting], he received correspondence from Board Member, Patrick Hagan, who resigned his position as a Board member due to conflicts with college and his job. The Board voted to accept the resignation. Rafferty said that solicitor Frank Cavallo would be consulted as to advertising for the vacancy and about the process for selecting another candidate to fill the vacancy.
Board member Stephanie Cohan asked about a rumor that was going around that the district was hiring a Director of Security. She asked: “That is not the case?”
Rafferty responded: “I have no clue where that came from and I would like to know who said that so that I could clarify. I don’t know where some of these things come up. At no level, did anyone talk about that, approach that, or have a discussion on that.”
Regarding security in the district, Jackie Borger said that two part-time security guards (Timothy Flood and James McNamee) will be hired at $12.00 an hour.
On the BOE’s meeting agenda, George Berglund was hired at a salary of $32,050 to replace the security guard who resigned from Cold Springs School.
Stephanie Cohan also asked about the merit maximum of $15,750 for the superintendent’s salary that is listed as $157,500 on the meeting agenda.
Rafferty deferred to the Board solicitor, Frank Cavallo, who stated that the superintendent’s contract is capped. He said: “In the contract, there are merit goals that the Board approved. If the superintendent meets those goals, the Board will send that information back to the county, who will approve that he has met those goals. If so, there is a percentage of his salary that is attached to that.”
Rafferty added: “This is the first year that my salary has been capped and I still have to meet with the negotiations committee concerning those goals.”
Rafferty also gave an update on the new middle school. He spoke of ongoing discussions with the Department of Education concerning the construction and all of the different issues with that.
He said that there are concerns of moving in the middle of the year. Stephanie Cohan asked about a definite date. Rafferty responded that he received a letter from Terminal Construction that they are ahead of schedule and that the SDA has approved their schedule. However, he is going to ask for formal notification from the SDA that will state when they will be allowed to move in. Rafferty also said there are still issues concerning Sixth Street and Market Street, which is a county road.
Stephanie Cohan also brought up a question that was asked about substitute teachers having to pay a $60 premium to be a “preferred sub” with Source 4 Teachers.
Rafferty responded that he met with the senior vice president of Source 4 Teachers to discuss various concerns. He also stated that there is an app that helps substitutes get called first on a regular basis.
SJO reached out to Source4Teachers for clarification about the app and Owen Murphy, who is the Vice President of Marketing for Source 4 Teachers, provided the following response via email:
Per your request, I’m providing you with some details that can hopefully clear up any confusion around Source4Teachers having an app.
Simply put, we do not have our own app. We are partners with Frontline Technologies. We use their substitute management platform, Aesop, which is widely used by school districts as well. It’s Frontline that offers an app which gives its users access to all jobs housed by the Aesop platform. It’s called Jobulator. Their website advertises that the app is $5.99 per month.
Since Source4Teachers uses the Aesop platform, our jobs are pushed into Jobulator. But, of course, so are all of the other districts who use Aesop. So when a person interested in picking up jobs uses the Jobulator app, they are seeing Source4Teachers opportunities, but also many others.
Like most apps, this is simply a mobile-specific presentation of the information. These same Source4Teachers jobs can be found directly on our website available to anyone we’ve hired.
Authorizing the Board Secretary/Business Administrator to award bid renovations of the high school cafeteria to accommodate coolers. This will be ratified by the BOE at the next Board meeting.
Contract renewal for Nutri-Serve Food Management for the 2016-17 school year for a total fee of $62,525.00. This will be year four of five years before the district is required to go out for a quote for food service management companies. Nutri-Serve guarantees that the bottom line on the operational financial report for the school year will be a return no less than $25,000.00. Increase of the consumer price index (CPI) is 0%
Award the Cold Springs partial fan coil replacement bid to Driscoll, Mech., LLC of Mt. Ephraim in the combined amount of base bid and alternate of $537,000. Bid includes a contingency allowance of $6,000.00.
A change order to the SDA new middle school project and to authorize proceeding with work per proposal to Terminal Construction by Ray Angelini, Inc. at a cost budget of $125,000, which includes a $14,418.90 contingency.
Extend the current trash contract with Waste Management from September 1, 2016-November 30, 2016 at pricing per the original bid.
Regarding Grant Items, the BOE granted permission to apply for the 2016 NJDA Summer Foods Program from June 27-July 28, 2016 based on enrollment at a price per student of $2.92 for breakfast and $3.68 for lunch. This program will provide breakfast and lunch for students at Cold Springs School, Mary Ethel Costello, and GHS.
The BOE also granted permission to apply for SketchUp Pro 3D modeling software application license for students for the 2016-17 school year. This will be for 710 licenses at $695 per license at a retail cost of $493,450. The SketchUp Pro Statewide K-12 Licensing Grant is available through the New Jersey Department of Education.
The BOE will meet next for its caucus meeting on Thursday, June 9 and again on Tuesday, June 14 for the regular meeting. The meetings are held in the GHS Media Center at 7:00 p.m.
On May 5, Gloucester City School District Business Administrator/Board Secretary, Peg McDonnell, presented the district’s 2016-17 budget in the amount of $47,627,539 and the Gloucester City Board of Education (BOE) voted to approve and adopt it.
As for any cuts, McDonnell said: “The budget projects no staffing cuts other than some retirement vacancies not being filled in order to offset the rising salary costs. All existing programs have been preserved in this budget. This budget includes a number of facilities renovations projects, which are supported by the use of capital reserve funds.”
The budget called for a tax levy cap adjustment in the amount of $395,820 for health care cost adjustment.
Additionally, the banked cap will be used to fund increased health benefit and salary costs:
Bank cap from 2013-14 of $193,789 expiring in 2016-17.
Bank cap from 2014-15 of $276,450 expiring in 2017-18.
Speaking of rising costs, McDonnell said: “As usual, the district faces rising costs primarily related to contractual salary increases, health benefit increases, the state employee health benefits plan, and special education tuition increases. In addition, the district is also anticipating the opening of the new middle school, which will require start up and ongoing costs to maintain. The district relies heavily on State Aid to support its budget. About 85% of our operating budget comes from State Aid. Yet over the past 10-15 years, State Aid has remained essentially flat.”
She said for the 2017 budget, the State Aid was $33,700 and amounts to about $18 per student.
As for salaries, McDonnell said: “The salaries are budgeted at negotiated rates with GCEA in the 2017 budget and at estimated rates for the teachers and custodians whose contracts have not been settled for next year.”
Other highlights of McDonnell’s budget 2016-17 budget presentation included:
As for debt service, the district owes $1.1 million in principal and interest during the 2017 school year. Some of the district’s debt was refinanced during the 2015 school year. The refinancing resulted in lower interest rates and payments for all the periods going forward, thus reducing costs.
The general current expenses are about $14,216,315 and this includes many of the central costs such as Special Education and other tuition, transportation, operations and facilities maintenance, child study team costs, and central administration.
Capital expenditures include appropriations for major facilities renovations projects and equipment. It also supports resident students attending charter schools. That is $253,460.
For the facilities budget, the facilities director requested about $1 million to support major facility projects in the 2017 budget. This is about the same amount as in current year. Over the past several years, the district has established and deposited funds in the capital reserve, which has been tapped for certain long range facility projects. Those are non-emergent projects, which are not funded by the SDA.
The district projects included in the 2017 budget include costs associated with the new middle school that will not be covered by the SDA as well as HVAC upgrades, ground and building repairs, and renovations. The new middle school project now in construction phase is opening is anticipated in Spring, 2017.
In the general fund appropriations: salaries are down about 3%, but benefits up about 6%.
The district benefits from well over $5 million in additional aid to the district through the special revenue fund. This includes $3.7 million in State funding for our pre-school education program, over $300,000 in State aid to non-public students, which is Gloucester Catholic.
The budget for Federal Aid, includes No Child Left Behind, which is Title I and Title II is about $765,000. IDEA funding for Special Education students is budgeted at about $537,000.
The budget was compiled with spending that totals $47.5 million. This spending is supported by the number of funding sources, including State Aid, Federal Aid, local tax payers, Brooklawn tuition, and fund balance.
Tuition from the local Brooklawn school district is up $28,000 due to a slight increase in projected enrollment from Brooklawn Schools.
As for the tax impact, for a home assessed $180,000, the estimate shows an annual change of $31.97 per year, which equates to about $2.66 per month.
During the budget meeting, colleagues of school nurse, Linda Stewart, along with several members of the public spoke on Stewart’s behalf to ask for consideration that her job not be cut.
One teacher asked for clarification by reiterating that the 2016-17 budget did not call for staffing cuts and asked: “Is it correct that there was no reduction in force (RIF) except through attrition for 2016-17?”
School superintendent, Joe Rafferty, responded: “There are issues with positions that were retained out of the RIF from last year that should have been done, but were not done. The current budget is not where the RIF came from.”
An email was sent to Peg McDonnell on May 11 asking if a vote had been taken to either retain or eliminate Stewart’s position.
McDonnell responded: “Linda Stewart is included is included in the 2017 Personnel Listing on the May 10, 2016 agenda which was approved at last night’s BOE meeting.”