7 Residents Attend BOE Budget Presentations

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Published: April 26, 2015 @ 6:00 AM EDT

Two presentations by the Board Of Education (BOE) this month for the 2015-16 school year drew an audience of seven residents in total. Held at the newly renovated 500-seat auditorium in the high school, Roselle Park School District (RPSD) Business Administrator Susan Guercio provided specific information on the costs that go into educating the children of the Borough to a room full of empty seats.

The school budget is responsible for over 50% of property taxes – 50 cents on every dollar that taxpayers pay. This coming school year’s budget was announced as being $33,411,846 with about 61% of that amount – $20,454,668 – to come from property taxes.

Mrs. Guercio began the presentation by reviewing expenditures. The $19,710,481 paid in salaries was – as with almost all organizations – the major expense in the budget; this amount was a $269,579 increase from last year’s budget.

Although cited as a 12% increase in the presentation, health and dental insurance figures presented only had a 5.2% increase from $5,942,841 to $6,251,534 this year. This is, in fact, a lower increase than the 10.6% increase for the 2014-15 school year.

Out-of district tuitions had an increase of $56,574 due to, according to Mrs. Guercio, several new students with special needs that are being sent to other schools. This is done because the school district cannot adequately provide either programs or accommodations for those students. Special education and other related services (*not including salaries) saw a combined increase of  $48,256.

A firm has been contracted to study . . . aspects of the district to propose ideas on how to save money which may include redistricting.

Costs for contracted services increased by $75,000 due, in large part, to an Educational Efficiency Study being conducted by the district. A firm has been contracted to study enrollment, curriculum, facilities, and other aspects of the district to propose ideas on how to save money which may include redistricting. Talked about as an option in Roselle Park previously with no success, redistricting is a measure where the neighborhood school model is restructured in an effort to even out enrollment numbers and improve other logistics. This means elementary school aged children on the east side of Roselle Park might end up going to Robert Gordon or Aldene and those on the west side or center of town might attend Sherman Elementary School.

Finally, although Mrs. Guercio stated that costs for other educational supplies “went up slightly”, it had the third-highest percentage (30.2%) and dollar increase ($142,267). The Business Administrator went on to explain that these costs included smartboards, computers, and other technology-related purchases, stating, “We’re somewhat committed to doing some additional purchases in that area.”

Description Of Expenditures
2015-16
Amount
Change ($)
from 2014-15
Change (%)
from 2014-15
Salaries
$19,710,481
$269,579
1.4%
Health and Dental Insurance
$6,251,534
$308,693
5.2%
FICA, PERS, Unemployment
$761,250
-$26,474
-3.4%
Out-Of-Distrct Tuition
$1,673,773
$56,574
3.5%
Utilities (Water, Electricity, Gas)
$586,100
-
-
Phone
$76,300
-
-
Special Education Costs*
$110,595
$20,339
22.5%
Related Special Services (OT, PT)
$82,846
$27,917
50.8%
Transportation
$459,500
-
-
Contracted Services
$632,220
$75,000
13.5%
Insurance (liability, Auto, etc.)
$370,000
-
-
IDEA/NCLB Grants
$790,945
$9,918
1.3%
Debt Service
$688,100
$900
0.1%
Lease Purchases
$256,106
$2,448
1.0%
Legal Costs
$90,000
-
-
Early Childhood Center Rent
$135,960
$2,664
2.0%
Tuition Reimbursement
$91,800
-
-
Sick Day Payout
$29,720
$7,320
32.7%
All Other Expenses
$614,616
$142,467
30.2%
TOTAL EXPENDITURES
$33,411,846
$897,345

On the revenue side, a decrease of $95,007 was attributed to less children from out-of-district enrolling into Roselle Park schools on a paying basis to the district. It was not disclosed if these students enter the district’s general education, special needs, or Academy Program population. The Academy is a program that educates students dealing with a wide range of issues that include impulse control, disruptive family environments, chronic health conditions, or therapeutic requirements.

The Unrestricted Miscellaneous line item decreased by almost 50% and it includes revenue from interest on investments and gate receipts from games. Other Restricted Miscellaneous saw an almost 15% decrease and this includes moneys collected for residency fines, legal reimbursements, and rental of facilities. The district is expecting that last portion to increase with the renovation of the high school auditorium.

The most significant decrease in revenues came from excess surplus which saw a loss of $285,697.

Description Of Revenues
2015-16
Amount
Change ($)
from 2014-15
Change (%)
from 2014-15
Local Tax Levy
$20,454,668
$1,270,817
6.6%
Tuition
$346,727
-$95,007
-21.5%
Local Source
$72,000
-
-
Unrestricted Miscellaneous
$4,480
-$4,020
-47.3%
Other Restricted Misc.
$16,451
-$2,811
-14.6%
Categorical Transportation Aid
$19,838
-
-
Extraordinary Aid
$200,000
-
-
Categorical Special Ed. Aid
$1,140,860
-
-
Equalization Aid
$9,176,611
-
-
Categorical Security Aid
$85,714
-
-
Other State Aid
$1
-
-
PARCC Readiness Aid
$18,620
-
-
Per Pupil Growth Aid
$18,620
-
-
Medicaid Reimbursement
$31,474
$3,245
11.5%
Excess Surplus
$346,737
-$285,697
-45.2%
Total General Fund
$31,932,801
$886,527
Total Special Grants Fund
$790,945
$9,918
1.3%
Total Debt Fund
$688,100
$900
0.1%
TOTAL BUDGET
$33,411,846
$897,345

Practically speaking, the $219,962 amount next year will either have to be placed on a vote by taxpayers . . . or the district will need to cut spending by that amount.

The amount to be paid by property taxes $20,454,668 consisted of a 2% tax levy increase allowed by law ($392,807) based on a weighted enrollment adjustment, an allowed adjustment for health care costs ($201,537), and the inclusion of banked cap ($219,962). Banked cap is an amount that the state allows school districts to ‘bank’ and use for any amount of the 2% cap on property tax increases not raised in any single school budget year can be used up to three years later without having to bring that amount before voters. What is important to note is that these funds will no longer be available since the district has increased the tax levy amount by the full 2% every year since 2012. Practically speaking, the $219,962 amount next year will either have to be placed on a vote by taxpayers since it will increase the tax levy by over 2% or the district will need to cut spending by that amount. This means either staff and/or programs will be affected and that amount does not even account for inflationary costs that will continue throughout the years.

The Business Administrator made mention of state aid remaining almost flat for the past four years at around $10,400,000. She referenced the 2009-10 school year state aid figure which was $10,671,165 and pointed out that in 2010 it decreased by $1.4 million and has never returned to that 2009 amount. Data provided shows that although that was the case in 2009, when there was a gubernatorial election, the current amount is higher than aid given by the state in 2008 and previous years.

At the conclusion of her portion of the budget presentation, Mrs. Guercio gave the amount of increase per house assessed at $65,000 to be $300. This means that the average household will pay $4,390.10 of their property taxes to the school district. Last year, the increase in the school tax levy was $207.

School Superintendent Pedro Garrido then gave information on what it meant if the budget is passed or voted down by the BOE.

If approved, Mr. Garrido stated that current programs and class size would be maintained, citing studies that reduced class size is productive to learning. Full-day kindergarten would be able to continue and interactive technology devices, textbooks, furniture, and an additional school bus would be able to be purchased. Although the school bus would cost more in purchase, the Superintendent commented it would outweigh the cost for renting a school bus, thereby decreasing the cost to the district in the long run.

On the other end, Mr. Garrido stated that if the budget were to be rejected, then programs and full-day kindergarten would be in jeopardy. Additionally, staff could be reduced and needed purchases might not be acquired. The argument made by the superintendent was that the amount invested now, although significant, would pay off in maintaining and improving the level of education to Roselle Park children. This, in turn, would benefit the municipality since it would improve the desirability of families who would want to move to Roselle Park.

The school budget can only be voted on by the nine member BOE since the amount to be raised by property taxes did not go over 2%. If that had occurred, then only the amount over 2% – not the entire budget – would be voted on by residents.

In providing an outlook on looking for ways to cut costs and increase revenues, Mr. Garrido mentioned that the district has hired grant writers to obtain funds, started working on bringing back out-of-district students to Roselle Park, and hired a firm to explore more efficient use of facilities.

During the public comment period, those in attendance covered a range of topics including asking the BOE to find more ways to cuts costs to lessen the burden on the taxpayers, inquiring to find out if the school district has conducted a shared-services feasibility study, and wanting to find out more information on special education costs.

The 2015-16 budget has been reviewed and approved by the County School Board. A public hearing on the budget will be held on April 28th at 7 p.m. in the Roselle Park Middle School auditorium. The BOE is scheduled to vote on the 2015-16 school budget on Tuesday, May 12th at 7 p.m. in Robert Gordon School.

A copy of the PowerPoint presentation is available below

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