Superintendent James Crisfield introduced the initial budget for 2014-15 at Monday’s board of education meeting. The proposed budget of expenditures is approximately $81.9M and up 4.21-percent from the 2013-14 budget expenditures, according to a presentation by Crisfield.
The proposed budgeted revenues are $79,981,589 compared to $78,605,321 for the 2013-14 school year and up 1.75-percent. The gap between the revenues and expenditures in the initial drafted budget is nearly $2M and the board and district will be working to close the gap before the public budget hearing in March, according to the presentation.
Crisfield called the budget numbers “very preliminary” at the meeting and stated a bulk of the budget once again comes from staff salaries and benefits.
“The benefits and salaries add up to about 80-percent of the budget,” Crisfield said at the meeting.
Crisfield also stated that there is approximately four full-time staff positions added to the 2014-2015 budget, as schools are facing staffing changes. According to the presentation, two full-time teaching positions will be eliminated at the K-5 level; a full-time special education psychologist will be added; a part-time athletic trainer for grades nine to 12; three full-time technology support staff are added; a full-time curriculum supervisor position will be added; among others.
Crisfield stated the overall staff changes are “not driven by enrollment," but only the elimination of two full-time teachers for K-5 is.
According to the presentation, enrollment is anticipated to be down 0.59-percent for 2014-2015. For 2013-2014, enrollment was down 1.20-percent.
During public comment, a resident questioned what a curriculum supervisor is and why it is needed.
Crisfield stated the curriculum supervisor is needed to assist Assistant Superintendent Dr. Christine Burton.
”The curriculum supervisor position is a new position and the amount of oversight in curriculum is too much for just one person,” Crisfield said. “We need to have somebody else to assist so we have more of an integrated K-12 approach, not just supervision for K-5 or six to12.”
Notable cost increases came from six specific areas, including curriculum and instruction, special services, capital projects, technology, transportation and benefits.
Crisfield stated that all of the areas of increase will be “elaborated on” at future meetings.
In terms of curriculum, Dr. Burton stated the district is “in the process of reviewing programs” for math and are included in the budget as potential cost items.
A resident questioned why funds are being allocated for a program that has not even been picked yet.
Dr. Burton responded saying, “no decision has been made, but we are in the process of reviewing potential programs and there are anticipated costs” for a new program.
Curriculum and instruction costs are up 21.95-percent from the previous years budget, according to the presentation, and board member Regina Truitt asked Dr. Burton to elaborate on where the increase is coming from.
Dr. Burton stated the increase is due to multiple things, including buying new textbooks for K-5.
Board member Raymond Wong asked at the meeting if it is state mandated for the district to buy new textbooks and Dr. Burton stated the purchase of new textbooks is a result of following the new common core standard.
Technology costs also increase by 39.14-percent, according to the presentation.
Crisfield stated most of the new staffing positions have to do with technology because the district needs “more of a presence” of technology staff due to the required PARCC testing and so that if there are any problems with technology, staff is there to respond quickly.
Board member Wong pointed out that the PARCC, which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, testing does not happen 365 days a year, yet the district is hiring full-time employees for those positions. Wong also asked if it was possible to contract these services and Crisfield said it is possible for the district to do that.
Residents can find a copy of the initial budget on the school district website.
The tentative date for the annual public budget hearing is March 24, according to the presentation.
The board will continue to work on the budget and the public is invited to attend an open discussion forum held on Jan. 26 at the Millburn Library from 2 to 4 p.m. to discuss the budget.