Schools Face $3 million Budget Shortfall
Thursday, February 17, 2011 • 11:18am
MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The School District of South Orange and Maplewood faces a $3.1 million shortfall for the 2011-2012 budget if state aid to the district remains similar to last year, district officials project.
Reductions in spending to account for the shortfall include a projected $1.7 million in non-personnel cuts and $1.4 million in personnel cuts, according to Superintendent of Schools Brian Osborne, who delivered a preliminary budget update to the Board of Education at the Public Board Meeting Thursday evening.
The personnel cuts will lead to the elimination of 20 full-time positions, including an Assistant Principal position at Columbia High School.
While an estimated $390,000 in new revenue is projected for the 2011-2012 budget, it will be more than offset by the expected $1.45 million increase in the school district’s health insurance premium, Osborne said.
Osborne estimated that state aid to the school district would either remain the same as last year or fall. Local taxes will increase to the maximum 2 percent allowed by law.
After four years of budget revenue increases averaging 6 percent per year, revenue fell by 3.23 percent for the 2010-2011 budget. According to estimates released at the Board Meeting, the next five years are projected to see average revenue increases of only 1.2 percent per year, with the 2011-2012 budget adding only 0.36 percent in revenue.
Meanwhile, state aid as a percent of the total budget has fallen dramatically, from over five percent in 2009-2010 to barely one percent in 2010-2011.
Board members expressed concern at Osborne’s indication that future cuts in spending will come increasingly from district jobs.
Vice President Sandra Karriem asked Osborne how the loss of the Assistant Principal position would impact Columbia High School.
Osborne replied that no preferences existed for administrative cuts, but the main loss to the school would be “less capacity to lead in teaching and learning work.”
School Board President Mark Gleason said that future cuts will become harder to make, pointing out that health care premiums will continue to go up while future revenue will remain largely unchanged. He asked fellow board members to think about how they could “do business differently” regarding how the district spends money.
The next step will come on Feb. 22 during the Governor’s Budget Address, which will be followed two days later by the release of the state aid figures to New Jersey’s school districts.
The Board of Education is expected to meet on March 7 to formally vote on the proposed budget, with the accompanying proposed tax levy submitted to the Board of School Estimate for approval.