The good news is that the South Orange-Maplewood School District has found a little more money to help it reduce some cuts to the 2017-18 budget.
The bad new is that using those funds will push the district’s tax levy increase to 3.56% (not 3.39% as previously reported by Village Green).
At a community budget forum on Monday, March 13, District Business Administrator Paul Roth revealed that the district has discovered it has an additional $466,170 in taxing authority based on a difference in the original and final projections on tax levy cap adjustments due to the increase in health care. The original adjustment was $357,574, but the final adjustment, as determined by the NJ Department of Education software, is $823,744.
Yes, it’s complicated.
The district now finds that it has nearly $2 million in banked cap that it can use, but is recommending to the Board of Education a budget using $1,793K of that banked taxing authority, holding off on using the 2015-2016 banked cap of $147,754, which is not yet expiring.
The district is recommending using current adjustments of $823,744 and the expiring cap of $970,247 for a total of $1,793,991 and a tax levy increase of 3.56%.
The addition of using another nearly $300,000 in banked cap, allows the district to fund 2 math intervention teachers at the elementary level, plus some other programs and positions. (Note: according to Roth, the math intervention teachers would be hired after determining that the district did not have to hire teachers due to unanticipated enrollment increases. Demographic projections have underestimated kindergarten enrollment for the few years.)
However, it does not restore world languages at the elementary schools.
See the full lists of additions and reductions in Roth’s presentation below.
At the forum, attended by about two dozen community members, the majority of public comments came from parents decrying the cut of world languages at the elementary level. At the end of comments, Sabina Hack told the Board, “I think you’ve heard loud and clear that you have a charge to come up with a elementary language program that is effective and very inexpensive.”
Other commenters questioned why a fourth Assistant Principal position was being added at the high school while teaching positions were being cut.
There were also positive comments. Parents appreciated the addition of 6 full-time teachers at the middle schools. They expressed solidarity with the Board of the difficulty of the district’s financial situation and the need to lobby for more state aid. And Hack said that the potential option for athletes to use extracurricular sports for physical education credits would be of “great benefit academically to many of our athletes.”
Next, the Board of Education will hold a special meeting to approve the preliminary 2017/18 budget on March 18, in order to meet a deadline to submit it to the county by March 20.
Board of Education President Elizabeth Baker asked community members to continue to send questions via Let’s Talk and email. She reiterated the district’s interest in fundraiser to backfill position and programs that are unfunded.
“We thank you all for your very thoughtful questions,” Baker told the audience.