BOE Sees ‘No Big Changes’ In School Budget

Without much public announcement, the Roselle Park Board Of Education (BOE) held their first budget presentation/public input session for the 2012-2013 school year on Thursday, February 16th, at the EJF/Aldene School Library which proposed a 0% property tax levy increase. Having no need for any votes nor action to be taken, the presentation was attended by Loren Harms, Dr. Jeff Parrell, Roseann Rinaldi, and Barbara Sokol – less than a quorum of the BOE.

Dr. Parrell led the meeting by explaining an accompanying PowerPoint presentation. He offered a brief outline of the budget’s timeline which gave February 28th as the date when the BOE would approve their tentative budget. Once it is submitted and approved by the county, a public hearing would be held on March 20th and the 2012-13 budget would then be voted on by the BOE and adopted on March 27th. The change in the BOE election from April to November does not change the school district’s budget adoption dates. The only difference is that, from now on, the BOE budget will not be voted on by the public unless it is over a 2% tax levy cap. Even so, if the school district’s budget ever exceeds that limit, only the amount over 2% would be able to be voted on by residents.

If the county approves the BOE’s  budget in March, then it just takes effect after voted on by the Board on the 20th. If the county does not approve the budget, the BOE has to work to revise the budget to satisfy whatever county requirements are determined. If the county does approve the budget and the tax levy increase request is more than 2%, the school year budget begins in July and election question is added in November asking resident to approve or deny any amount over that 2%.

Dr. Parrell informed those in attendance of the breakdowns between the budget’s estimated revenue and expenditures. On the revenue side, the total property tax levy for 2012-2013 was demonstrated to remain the same as last year, which was $17,505,170.

Revenue was divided into two main categories of stable (or predictable) sources and uncertain sources. Stable revenue, which accounts for 2/3 of the proposed total revenue, comes from funding that is fairly-predictable because it does not change a lot from year to year. This had an increase of $341,716. The remaining revenue from uncertain sources comes mostly from state funding which would have definite figures on February 23rd. At the February 16th presentation, this amount saw an increase of $337, 591, with $281,808 coming from an estimated increase in the State Equalization Aid.

Since then, figures from the state were published and – according to state data – the amount of State Equalization Aid increased a total of $430,338 from $8,752,718 in 2011-2012 to $9,183,056 for the upcoming school year. Additionally, the State announced that the Roselle Park school district would receive $26,373 for having signed up to take part in the state’s “Race to the Top” award. This increases the anticipated revenue to $174,903 over the amount presented at the February 16th BOE information session.

The most notable increase in revenue in the 2012-13 budget of $281,808 came from additional funding that was awarded by the state in May 2011 after last year’s budget was set. That unspent funding amount, which was received for extraordinary aid for special need students, came from special services and was put into the general fund.

“We don’t foresee that [tax levy increase] as being required at this time,” Dr. Parrell stated in reference to no increase in proposed budget from taxpayers. He concluded by stating, “[There were] no big changes in the budget.”

Expenditures included salaries, health insurance, unemployment obligations, out-of-district tuition, utilities, and 12 other line items. A new state law which requires staff to contribute 1.5% of their salaries towards their health insurance was shown as an offset to the increase to health insurance. There was a slight decrease in the district’s unemployment responsibilities due to those employees laid off a couple of years ago being removed. By moving the election from April to November, the BOE reported a savings of approximately $13,000. In total, there was a $679,307 increase in total estimated expenditures for the coming school year. Dr. Parrell stated that there were no major increases or new programs proposed other than a hiring of 10 new para-professionals for special education. School Superintendent Patrick Spagnoletti added that the new Science Technology Preparatory Academy Initiative is expected to lower the expenditures because the BOE is anticipating more students staying in-district and that currently there are 18 students signed up for the program.

“Really, it’s in this tight economy, it’s managing what we have,” Dr. Parrell stated,”It’s spending what we need to give the best education we can to the students.”

The next budget presentation/public session is tentatively scheduled for March 7, 2012 at the Roselle Park High School. The next scheduled BOE meeting is February 28th at the EJF/Aldene School at 7 p.m.