The 2007-2008 budget represents an almost $2 million increase over the current year's spending plan. If approved by the voters, the increase will be realized through a 5.4 percent tax increase for Secaucus property owners.
The electorate will now vote on the budget on April 17, the same day that they vote for three school board members (see cover story).
What it covers
At the meeting, Secaucus Board of Education Business Administrator and Board Secretary Edward Walkiewicz noted that the state has changed their limits regarding school budgets. Instead of capping spending, they are now capping taxes.
"We now have to work within the context of what they determine to be an appropriate amount of tax," Walkiewicz said. "So the challenge we face is that, in a very restrictive spending environment in terms of the tax levy, we have a number of things that we still need to do to keep the school district going forward."
While the budget calls for a noticeable tax increase, Walkiewicz provided statistics to the public that showed the average increase over the past five years in Secaucus was 7.82 percent.
Walkiewicz outlined how the budget funds will be spent if approved by the voters.
Top funding priorities include the implementation of a new physical education curriculum and renovating the art classrooms in the middle school and high school. The cost for the art room renovations, which haven't been upgraded since the mid-1970s, will be approximately $818,000, he said.
The budget also includes funds allocated for new textbooks, computer upgrades, the expansion of security cameras district-wide, and the replacement or retrofitting of playgrounds at both Clarendon and Huber Street schools.
At the beginning of the meeting, Huber Street technology teacher Lucille Wright gave a demonstration of "smart board" technology before the nearly 40 people assembled. "Smart boards" are interactive devices that help students improve their skills in math, geography, and vocabulary.
"Smart boards can be used not just on the elementary level, but can be successfully used all the way up to the high school level," she said.
According to Wright, if the budget meets with the final approval of the voters on April 17, the Board of Education will be able to purchase 16 more smart board devices for classroom use in Secaucus' four public schools.
After the unanimous school board vote approving the budget, Walkiewicz spoke out further in its behalf.
"This budget allows us to maintain the programs that we have," he said. "We think Secaucus is a good school district. And when you tighten up your budget proposal and really think about where the funds go, you can maintain that. We are here to educate kids. That's the bottom line."
If the budget is voted down on April 17, it will go to the Town Council for changes and possible cuts.
Mark J. Bonamo can be reached at email@example.com.