This Thursday the Secaucus Board of Education (BOE) will hold a public hearing on its proposed budget for the 2011-2012 school year. The preliminary proposed budget sent to the Hudson County Superintendent of Schools for the next school year is $33.1 million, a $736,327 increase from last year.
If approved by voters in the upcoming April 27 BOE election, most of the budget will be funded through local property taxes, with the rest coming from federal grants and state funding.
This is the first budget the BOE has introduced under the state’s new tax cap law, and the second introduced since the district lost all its state aid last year.
Last year, just days before introducing the 2010-2011 budget, the school district learned that with Gov. Christopher Christie’s $820 million in statewide education cuts, Secaucus would lose every penny of its $1.6 million in state aid, a move that forced the district to spend its $800,000 surplus to offset the cut.
It remains to be seen whether last year’s cuts will have any long ranging implications for classroom programs.
In addition, the district, like all school districts and municipal governments, must comply with the state’s new 2 percent tax cap. Under this law annual property tax increases must be capped at 2 percent, although some expenditures are exempt from the cap.
In an effort to keep expenses low, the BOE, Housing Authority, and Secaucus Town Council meet periodically to discuss ways the three entities can share services to save taxpayer dollars. Already they share a number of service contracts (for plumbing, carpentry, HVAC work, etc.) to save money, and there’s an inter-local committee that meets throughout the year to save even more.
It remains to be seen how the school district put together next year’s proposed budget, as right now, only the rough numbers are available. Last year, the administration of Secaucus Schools Superintendent Cynthia Randina had to get very creative to cut spending.
The district reduced expenses by eliminating and consolidating staff positions through attrition; reducing energy costs; cutting poorly attended extracurricular activities; cutting after-school programs and school hours; and adjusting some class sizes.
All of these options could well be back on the table again this year, in addition to options that weren’t explored last year.
Acting administrator Smith to make his debut
This week’s budget presentation will mark the public debut of Ronald Smith, the temporary and acting school business administrator. Smith was recently given a contract to fill in for longtime Business Administrator Ed Walkiewicz, who is currently on an extended medical leave and who isn’t expected to return to work before the end of the current school year.
Smith, who previously worked at the Essex County Vocational Technical Schools, will be paid up to $2,500 a week as the acting business administrator during Walkiewicz’s absence.
The Secaucus Board of Education will hold a meeting for parents and teachers to discuss the 2011-2012 budget on Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m. at Huber Street School, 1520 Paterson Plank Road.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.