At the board of education budget work session on June 1, the administration presented a revised budget of $107,785,733, which was $1,027,600 less than the budget that was defeated on May 17.
This revised budget represented a 7.97 percent increase over the 2004-05 budget of $99,833,944, compared to an 8.99 percent increase for the defeated budget.
After much discussion, the board decided that the revised budget needed to be increased by $50,000 to cover anticipated expenses associated with repair or replacement of the Manorhaven School roof. (Ed.s note: At press time, the district had cut an additional two teacher/education assistant positions.)
Consequently, the revised budget, which the board expects to adopt on June 7, totals $107,765,733,or $1,047,600 less than the defeated budget. Overall, the revised budget presents an 7.94 percent increase over the 2004-05 budget.
Dr. Geoffrey N. Gordon, superintendent of schools, noted that the revised budget represents a major philosophical change in the district's educational policy, in that budget cuts are being made while enrollment increases. Gordon said that the administration sought reductions that would have the least impact on students. The board members recognized that in making cuts to the budget, a delicate balance exists between meeting the educational needs of the students and their fiscal responsibility to taxpayers.
The primary reductions in the revised budget are in teaching staff ($425,000) and teachers aides, clerical and cleaning positions ($283,000).
Although a planned increase in the custodial staff would be eliminated, it was noted that the custodial staff is responsible for maintaining more than 200,000 additional square feet built over the past three years.
Other significant reductions include $15,000 for the fifth-grade after-school foreign-language program; $15,000 for the elementary lunchtime chess program (it was noted that some of the lunchtime chess program could be picked up by the PEP program's challenge workshops); $20,000 in health education supplies; $15,000 for public-relations consultants; and $40,000 for transportation for field trips and after-school activities. The number of clubs at each elementary school was reduced to five, saving $72,000, and sub-JV teams at the high school were cut, for a $15,600 savings.
Community comments presented at the conclusion of the budget discussion focused on maximizing the effectiveness for students of the 20-hour block schedule for teachers at Schreiber and the level of administrative supervision throughout the district.
Frank Russo, one of the losing candidates in the May 17 board election, reiterated comments he made at the May 24 meeting and during his campaign. He said that making scattered $15,000 cuts was the wrong approach, that it is wrong to postpone equipment purchases and that significant personnel cuts should be made, especially at Schreiber. He again called for enforcing 20 hours per week of classroom teaching time per teacher, instead of allowing teachers to use some of their time to help students individually or in the resource room.
Joel Katz, another defeated candidate, asked the board to cut the number of assistant principals at Weber and Schreiber. There are seven at present, one for each grade at Schreiber and three for the four "houses" at Weber.
Several parents objected to Russo's and Katz's suggestions, saying their children had benefited directly from the help they received in resource room or from the involvement of assistant principals in discipline issues. One parent noted that assistant principals often take over disciplinary problems that are overwhelming a classroom teacher, freeing the teacher to resume working with the rest of the class.
In the event that the revised budget is defeated at the June 21 revote, additional cuts would need to be made as part of a state-mandated contingency budget. The most substantial cuts would include elimination of 24 teachers, 17 of whom are current staff ($1,800,000); elimination of 10 additional current aides ($50,000); and elimination of five additional current clerical positions ($150,000). Other cuts would include further reduction in public-relations expenses ($25,000); reduction in personnel in the proposed high school security plan ($36,911); elimination of late buses ($44,800); further reduction of sub-JV teams at high school by an additional $104,400; elimination of game officials, uniforms and reconditioning ($20,000); reduction of athletic transportation ($50,000); and elimination of equipment ($50,000).
The contingency budget also included elimination of the driver-education program, saving $150,000. The program would be moved to Continuing Education, at a cost of $450 per student, paid by the student's family.
The board of education advised the administration to go forward with preparations for presenting the revised budget.
It is anticipated that the board will adopt this budget at its meeting at Weber Middle School on Tuesday, June 7, at 8 p.m. There will be a public hearing at Schreiber on Tuesday, June 14, at 8 p.m. The budget revote will be on Tuesday, June 21, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Weber/Flower Hill.