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Superintendent Explains Challenges of School Budget to Borough Council

Ed Barmakian

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 • 12:00am

CHATHAM, NJ - Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa gave a presentation to the Borough of Chatham Council on Monday, highlighting the school budget that will be up for adoption on Thursday by the Board of Education.

The school budget for the District of the Chathams will go up by either 2.52 percent or 3.34 percent, depending on what voters decide on April 23.

The District of the Chathams proposed its $65,637,886 budget for the 2014/2015 school year at the Board of Education meeting held March 17.

LaSusa explained that new laws, mandating programs such as Anti-Bullying and TeachNJ, put more strain on the budget while Chatham's state aid stagnates.

"Every month that passes, we get more regulation from Trenton, we get more laws from legislators that represent us voted for," LaSusa said. "The point is that all of these things cost money, not to mention time and resources."

Despite the many challenges, the School District of the Chathams still maintains some of the highest standards while spending $12,416 per student, which is less than many high-achieving districts. LaSusa noted, Chatham students have an average SAT score of 1,744, while 92 percent of them attend secondary school and 67.1 percent take AP classes.

The district tax levy would increase by $1,408,373, a rise of 2.52 percent over last year. The amount to be raised by taxes is $57,282, 607.

But it would become a 3.34 percent increase in taxes if the second part of the budget proposal is approved by voters on April 23. The board is proposing a permanent increase per year of $460,000 to "Enhance and Augment the District Technology Education Program." It would increase the tax levy by .82 percent.

Chatham will receive an increase in state aid of $81,200.

Contributing to the rising cost of education is a 13 percent rise in health insurance and 9.7 percent rise in out-of-district special education. LaSusa said that out of 4100 students, Chatham pays to send 30 to 45 students out of district.

"No one wants to see increases, but I think you're doing a rermarkable job," Council member James Collander said.

In other business, two ordinances were introduced on first reading. Both passed by 3-1 votes with council member Alida Kass voting no on both the bond ordinance to finance $971,00 in capital improvements and the 2014 municipal budget of $14 million.

"I think the tax rate needs to remain flat and we need to find a way to make it that way," Kass said.

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