Updated with clarification on the funding going to the Montclair Community Pre-K.
Thank goodness for that $4.6 million in state aid. That’s about $4.6 million more than the Montclair Board of Education had hoped for.
This money means that all of Montclair’s schools–i.e. Edgemont and Renaissance–will remain open for the 2011-2012 school year. The current busing system (1 mile away from the school) will stay the same. The Montclair Community Pre-K will receive funding [for the use of the classrooms that house the DLC and tuition for the DLC children that attend MCPK classes.] “With the additional funds, we’re excited about funding additional programs,” Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez said. “We’ll create a budget that’s sustainable for the upcoming year.” Read the backstory here.
But not everyone was happy at tonight’s BoE meeting. Even though the emergency Plan B was scrapped, the board still had to make cuts. The overall budget was down by 2.5 percent with just 4.6 percent of the money coming from the state. Long story short: Cuts had to come from somewhere.
Mainly, the BoE chose to outsource Montclair’s 200 or so paraprofessionals. As of June 30, they will be pink slipped. Teacher’s aids, including special needs aids, made passionate pleas for the board to reconsider. So did several concerned parents, commenting until 10:30 p.m. But as the meeting ended, the decision was final: The system of hiring aids will be privatized through the Essex County Service Commission and no longer through the BoE. Current aids might have the chance to be rehired by ECSC, but they will be hired without their current benefits.
Board member Shirley Grill had a lot to say: “State aid has come through, but we dodged a bullet.” She went on to voice disappointment about the schools that will remain open. “Closing a school would’ve given us half a million dollars. This could’ve been done without eliminating choice.”
Here are more highlights from the meeting:
- A private consultant will be hired to suggest cuts for next year at a cost of $75,000.
- $25,000 in funding will go back to the IMANI program.
- Part-time floating librarians will be hired.
- $375,000 will be allotted to technology.
- The tax levy will decrease by 3.6 percent meaning the average Montclair resident will pay $131 in school taxes.
- A feeder school will be created from Bullock to Renaissance.
- The busing system will be reconsidered next year when new contracts might be made.
- The BoE hopes to bring in funding by bringing in out-of-district special needs students.
- They hope to bring in revenue by creating a committee to rent out school athletic fields and theaters.
- More money can be brought in by selling retail school supplies directly to students.
Next up is the 2012-2013 school year. “Again, we will be looking at closing schools,” Grill said. “We must have the courage to make changes to meet the needs of the community.”
This year’s budget passed, and the BoE will submit their recommendations to the county. It will be finalized at a meeting on March 14. “Hopefully, this is actually it,” Alvarez said.