School district introduces preliminary 2019-20 budget

SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Board of Education heard a presentation on the preliminary 2019-2020 budget at its Feb. 25 meeting, getting details from the administration on the district’s $141,598,027 preliminary budget for the next school year. According to the presentation, 78 percent of the total will be dedicated to instruction, 10 percent will go toward facilities, 8 percent will be for administrative expenses and 4 percent of the budget will go toward transportation.

According to the presentation, 93 percent of the budget will be coming from local taxes, 3 percent will come from federal aid, 4 percent will come from state aid, and less than 1 percent each from miscellaneous revenues and debt service aid. The local tax levy will be increased by 2 percent; the total amount to be raised by taxes is $120,915,798, an increase of $2,370,907 from 2018-2019’s budget. The amount of state aid that is projected will not change, giving the district $5,033,885.

Miscellaneous revenue will decrease by $200,000 to $275,000, as Montrose will no longer be collecting tuition, Business Administrator Paul Roth said at the meeting.

“Earlier this year, if you remember, we were awarded a $1.4 million grant for the preschool,” he said. “And part of that was to remove tuition for Montrose Preschool. So while we lose $200,000 in miscellaneous revenue, we gain $1.4 million through a grant. That is a nice tradeoff there.”

The presentation also featured enrollment data for the district, showing that kindergarten enrollment increased by 58 students in 2018-2019. During the last 11 years, district enrollment increased by 17 percent, the equivalent of 1,036 students. According to the district website, district enrollment in 2016 was 6,960; projections say that enrollment is expected to increase to 7,183 total students in 2019-2020.

Of the proposed budget, $80,035,725 is dedicated to salaries and contract services, a $1,758,951 increase from the previous year. There will be no change to health benefit costs, on which the district will be spending $15,525,519.

Additions to the district that are incorporated into the budget include a Chinese language teacher, continued professional development for data warehouse and assessment, and continued professional development for restorative practices. According to acting Superintendent Thomas Ficarra, the Chinese language teacher is now a district expense because the grant that paid for it previously has ended.

“That will be on the district this year because the grant is no longer with us,” he said at the meeting.

There will be no staff reductions, and district payments for out-of-district placements is down, which Ficarra said will have a positive impact on future budgets.

There is a $3,942,882 budget deficit, which will be managed with a spending adjustment of $293,600, and maintenance reserve of $1,000,000 and a spending freeze and breakage of $2,649,282.

State aid notices were sent in the first week for March, and the BOE held a budget workshop meeting on March 11. On March 18 the BOE is scheduled to vote on the preliminary budget and the last day to receive approval from Essex County will be April 22. A public hearing on the budget and a final vote will be held the week of April 29.