Trouble in school

Various school boards are meeting over the next few weeks to put together budgets for the 2010-11 school year. These are not happy times. With a state aid cut of 15 percent looming, many districts are talking about cuts.

Clearly, the granting of average 4 to 4.5 percent pay raises to teachers is coming home to roost. (Of course, school boards are not totally to blame for this; the rules of collective bargaining are against them.)

It will be interesting to see which districts slash programs, which raise property taxes and which do a combination of both.

Have school administrators gotten it? Well, maybe. Or maybe not?
At a Randolph school board meeting last Saturday, it was noted with appreciation that the superintendent would forgo his raise this year. That was a nice gesture; taking a 10 percent cut would be a better one.

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About fsnowflack
Fred Snowflack was editorial page editor and a political columnist for the Daily Record of Morristown for almost 12 years. He has won numerous awards for editorial and column writing from the New Jersey Press Association and has written a blog on county and state politics for the last three years. He lives in Ledgewood in Morris County.

32 Responses to Trouble in school

  1. P says:

    All districts will be raising taxes and cutting staff/programs. And the more state aid contributes to a district’s revenue (in % terms), the greater the cuts.

    UNLESS, the NJEA finally wakes up a tells its locals to re-open their contract negotiations and lower their demands for salary increases and possibly pick up a portion (or a greater portion, assuming S3 is approved as currently constructed) of their health care costs.

    Chances that will happen – LESS THAN ZERO.

    BOEs – Wake Up. You can no longer approve raises above 3% and maintain your staffing and programs.

    Parents – Wake Up – Stop demanding labor peace and DEMAND that your BOE protect your kids, not the NJEA.

    Fred – Show the power of the Press. When will the DR start regularly publicizing the damage these settlements are doing to public education?

    Here’s three recent stories in the DR about impending cuts – Not a one mentions how teach district’s salary settlement plays into the “fixed” costs that are driving staff cuts –

    http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20100217/COMMUNITIES/100216052/1150/NEWS06/Randolph-school-district-looking-at-layoffs-to-meet-budget-numbers

    http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20100220/COMMUNITIES/100219075/1150/NEWS06/Denville-school-board-eyes-funding-for-extracurricular-activities

    http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20100218/COMMUNITIES/100217049/1150/NEWS06/Parsippany-schools-could-cut-teachers-as-budget-cuts-loom

    And only the last one even mentions the possibility of a reopened contract, but not what type of cut could save the jobs that are at stake.

  2. Ted says:

    Rockaway Township’s BOE will be voting tonight on a preliminary budget that cuts no staff or programs and merely increases property taxes.

    As I explained I my recent letter to the editor, tonight’s preliminary budget assumes deficits will swallow the remaining surplus by a deficit by June 30 2010. But where I recommended staff cuts, the RTBOE plans to recoup the entire deficit by increasing the tax levy by $2.3 million dollars and requesting a cap waiver of $400,000.

    Admittedly, there is the appearance of a $1.2 million budget cut but it’s merely a card trick. The business administrator ignored or understated $1.1 million in revenue, most notably $882,000 in federal aid and grants as well as an understatement of fees collected from other districts. And once revenues are ignored, it’s simply a matter of reducing budgeted appropriations to match. Mid year, you can expect administration to announce they “found” the money to reinstate appropriations that appeared cut

    Since it’s on the adgenda for tonights meeting, I assume it will pass. I’ll be there doing all I can to prevent it but….

  3. Ted… this is grossly irresponsible … They are NOT cutting anything?

  4. P says:

    Doubt they’ll get their cap waiver requests approved. State has been very stingy and I doubt the Christie adminstration will be more generous than Corzine’s was.

    I would also say that if they pull this off it just kicks the can down the road because next year they won’t be able to shift surplus money over to cover this year’s and next year’s reductions unless they have even more than Ted has identified.

    School Budgeting has become “Pay” me now, or “pay” me later.

  5. Ted says:

    No they are not cutting anything Fred. By understating or ignoring revenue, specificly Federal Impact Aid, Grants & entitlements (about $900,000) and understating tuition, fees and Misc revenues by another $300,000, adminstration has the ability to arbitrarily lop off appropriations. Somewhere during the the year the phantom revenue cuts will appear and the BA will appear a hero for calculating a way out of the mess. Fred, study the details before you call me irresponsible. Hve you even look at the proposed preliminary budget?

  6. Ted says:

    P. Iagree with you on the cap waiver but even if it’s not sucessful, the board makes up the loss of excess by raising property taxes by $2.3 million.

  7. P says:

    The “proposed” tax levy is $41M. If they lose the waiver request they’ll have to drop the tax levy increase to about $1.5M to stay within the 4% cap – No?

    And how did they come up with a state aid figure? No one will have those numbers until mid-March? What’s their working assumption on the % cut in state aid they will experience?

  8. Ted says:

    The state aid figure is about a 10% increase from last year:about $433,000 The waiver amounts to $460,000. It’s an attempt to erase the aid cut, nothing more.

    As it appears now, regardles of waier, taxes will increase 2.3 million

  9. Ted says:

    In terms of timelines, budgets with waivers will be submitted tomorrow. Those withou,t the deadline is March 4

  10. Ted says:

    Update. the cap waiver was voted down.5-2. yhe board thought asking for one would look bad. Duh!

  11. P says:

    budgets w/waivers are due this week, but all others have to be submitted by March 22 – (March 4th each year; changed pursuant to 18A:7F-5c))
    Districts must prepare an itemized budget and submit the budget to the executive county superintendent of schools. (18A:7F-5 and 18A:7F-6).

    How can they budget a 10% increase when the state has told everyone to prepare for a 15% cut?? Won’t the county just kick it back?

  12. Ted says:

    At the February 23 Rockaway Township BOE meeting there was a vote on next year’s preliminary budget. I was able to address the board prior to the vote. I remarked that excess funds were correctly used to make up a current year deficit. But instead of cutting cost to make ends meet in next year’s proposed $46 million budget, administration decided to increase property tax by $2.3 million. Previously I surmised the school tax levy would increase a mere $800,000; boy is my face red..

    Further, I noted that proposed budget cuts of $1.2 million were nothing more than a card trick. You see, the preliminary budget ignored revenue sources such as federal grant money and Impact aid; last year they accounted for about $900,000. There were also understatements of other sources to the tune of $300,000. When that funding is received all cuts will be reinstated.

    Later in the program the superintendent specified cuts totaling $1.2 million but quietly added there “might be unanticipated revenue” during the year. Gee, ya think?
    Oops another colloquial phrase; more apologies to my newest fan in Mine Hill

  13. Ted says:

    P, I’m not sure. The county super should kick it but our BA didn’t seem too worried about it. The district super claims cuts are threatened every year but it never happens.

  14. P says:

    I’m not sure these people are smart enough to be teaching school – http://www.northjersey.com/news/education/85976832_Montclair_School_District_to_shed_60_jobs_and_hike_taxes_.html

    They are too dumb to realize that they finally killed the goose that was laying the golden eggs.

    The state doesn’t have the money to keep up the level of aid payments and given the choice between taking a little less per person, but saving most/all the jobs on the block OR sticking to their guns, the NJEA plans to go down blazing!

    These people are too stupid to be educators.

  15. P says:

    Fred – Has the Daily Record started calling around to Supers to find out how many positions they’ll need to cut if the state trims their aid by 15 – 20%? And have they also asked the Supers – How many jobs could be saved if the staff ONLY got 2% raises next year instead of the scheduled 4.2 – 4.7% county range? Or if they received no increases they way many(most?) of the people who pay their salaries have the past two years?

    It might be illuminating for individual communities and parent groups to see how much of the impact could be mitigated if the NJEA wasn’t hell-bent on getting its poind of flesh. I really think they want to do as much damage as possible in an effort to turn the people against Christie and any legislator who supports him.

  16. Ted says:

    P, it’s a complex formula. The number of at risk jobs is a function of the cut, the amount that can be raised through the local tax levy, the willingness of board members to bend on class size, etc. Limiting the annual increase would precipitate a legal challenge at the very least. I understand Christie will discuss the issues tonight.

  17. P says:

    Agreed, but by now all boards should have a pretty good idea of what they will do if the state cuts aid by 10, 15, 20 or even 25%, and how many jobs are at risk. They should also be able to quickly calculate what would happen if the NJEA would re-open the contract to do a one year salary increase change, and should have already made that request of their local association.

    As your LTTE noted – School District Budgeting isn’t Rocket Science.

    It would be good for all to hear how the inflexibility of the NJEA will impact public education in their district next year.

    Fred – We need YOU to lead the charge.

  18. Ted says:

    The NJEA won’t budge easily, if at all. It appears they’re all looking towards increasing local tax, cutting support services like custodial or security. Next on the list will be a few special ed instructors and classroom aids. You also have to keep in mind that no matter what Christie as already taken, most districts have a great deal more.

  19. P says:

    I know the NJEA won’t budge, but I would like to see a BRIGHT spotlight shining on their intransigence.

    Even maxing out the local taxpayer levy (4%) won’t fix the problem given that districts are already behind the eight-ball because of the dumb contracts they signed.

    Everybody start cheering – Snowflack, Snowflack, Snowflack . . .

    Time to unleash the power of the press.

  20. Ted says:

    Why pawn it off to the Press? To some extent, school boards are locally controled. Go to a meeting, run for thr BOE, join forces with like minded people and stay invovled for more than a couple of years

  21. P says:

    Ted – Please stop acting like a 10 year old. This is an important issue and if we ALL don’t demand that the press play its part in educating people as to what is happening where most of the property taxes are being spent – BOEs, then we might as well give up.

    And since Fred (and all the papers) loves to editorialize about the problem, we should want a more substantial contribution along the lines of the Tax Crush series they ran last year.

  22. P says:

    Just want to thank the NJEA for its support in this effort – http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/03/nj_is_out_of_running_for_435b.html

  23. Ted says:

    Pbrain, school boards are the resposibility of local voters. And newspaper editorials, while interesting don’t have causal impact on legislation or elections.

  24. P says:

    Fred says “thanks” for classifying him as a eunuch.

    Ted – Your posts on this are just continued proof that you have no idea how to make things happen. Just continue to write your letters to the editor about RT. We all wish you well.

  25. Ted says:

    Pbrain, Can you recall any election or political decision that was decided by editorial comentary?

  26. Sure … years ago, Ted ran for freeholder. We endorsed the opposition slate and they won. 🙂

  27. P says:

    It’s impossible to “prove” one way or the other. But as a politician, would you rather have all the editorial writers backing you, or opposing you.

    And it isn’t just editorial support we (the taxpayers of NJ) need. We also need the reporting side collecting data and showing how outlandish comp packages will make a bad situation into a disaster. And what could be done if the NJEA was willing to be reasonable.

    If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

  28. Ted says:

    You’re right Fred. If you had endorsed our ticket back ten we would have won. Oh yeah you endorsed Inglesino for RT mayor before that and I lost by a lot. You really are a powerful guy

  29. P says:

    Fred – Can you start a separate thread for the Life and Times of Ted Doty so he can do all his whining there, rather than interrupt the important business of trying to take back the state from the public sector unions?

  30. Ted says:

    I didn’t make me the subject. Pbrain and Fred did that in an attempt to embarass.

    So Pbrain, YOU want to take the state away from union control but you want Fred to stick HIS neck out. Pbrain you’re a brave man. lol

  31. P says:

    Wrong, you asked for proof of a specific case, and Fred provided one that you wouldn’t have to research or could refute. It was also pretty funny. But that gave you an opening to whine about your political trials and tribulations. SOP.

    How is Fred sticking his next out, or if he is, isn’t it his job to weigh in on important matters like this one? And who has a bigger megaphone in Morris County than him?

    Stop being a petulant child and get on board Teddy.

  32. Ted says:

    Pbrain, if you think the Daily Record endorsment made a difference in a Morris County Freeholder race, you don’t know too much about Morris politics

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