BY Steve Maginnis | Friday, Mar 07, 2014 7:00am |
Board member Anne Mernin and Chief Operations Officer Brian Fleischer
In a second budget workshop meeting that was even longer than the first, the Montclair Board of Education adopted on March 6 tentative budget that modified the 4 percent tax increase advocated by Chief Operations Officer Brian Fleischer. The board tentatively approved a budget that would raise taxes by 4.41 percent to pay for three extra kindergarten teachers and three kindergarten aides, and also to reduce kindergarten class sizes from 24 students to 21.
Fleischer explained the concept of “banked” money that could have been but was not raised through increased tax levies. He said that when Montclair decreased its tax levy by 3.6 percent for the 2012-13 school year, it banked the full difference between what it could have taxed and what it did tax – more than $5.6 million, which was larger than two percent of that year’s budget. The banked cap represented 5.76 percent of Montclair’s current tax levy. The district must use that $5.6 million in the 2014-15 budget or it will expire. Using all of it would actually increase the available cap for 2015-16 and beyond by increasing the tax levy base when an additional 2 percent is calculated. An additional $5.4 million for the two school years (2012-13) and 2013-14) in which taxes were not increased was also generated, giving the district the opportunity to use that additional banked money in future years.
BY Georgette Gilmore | Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 2:00pm |
March 2 was Dr. Seuss’ birthday and local schools celebrated Read Across America Day and the author who published 46 children’s books.
On Monday February 17 and Tuesday February 18, students of House Schwartz at Glenfield School held a bake sale to raise money for Paws Montclair. This past Monday a representative from PAWS, Ron Locacio, visited the House and thanked them for the donation, especially the coordinators of the Bake Sale: Hana Ackelsberg, Caleb Koch, Samantha McLoughlin and Angie Noyes.
Then on Thursday February 27, 20 students from House Schwartz visited Nishuane School to act out the story “The Cat in the Hat” in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday for several 1st grade classes.
BY Georgette Gilmore | Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 8:00am |
Montclair Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Penny MacCormack, sends out a monthly newsletter titled Straight from the Superintendent. In this edition she discusses the proposed Montclair Schools budget for the 2014-15 school year, includes a summary of Chief Human Resources Officer Felice A. Harrison’s presentation on the District’s Enrollment Report and the Annual Violence and Vandalism Report, and a summary of Watchung School teachers’ presentation:
Highlights of the March 3rd Budget Workshop
Chief Operating Officer Brian Fleischer Expands on the Preliminary Budget for 2014-2015
Brian updated the Board on the district’s finances and answered questions on the preliminary budget for 2014-15.
The key challenge in formulating the budget was that the surplus which had accumulated in prior years had been spent down, in accordance with NJ law and the guidance of our auditors. As a result, we began this budget season with an $8 million shortfall in funding for next year’s ongoing expenses. Our plan was to take a balanced approach in budgeting that would fund ongoing expenses including salaried positions added in 2012-13 school year and the negotiated and much deserved salary increases for our MEA staff.
We plan to address this deficit in several ways, with the ultimate goals of maintaining the current level of school programs and staffing our children deserve, and supporting our continued implementation of the Strategic Plan.
Our first step in this process was to add $1.5 million of available reserves (fund balance) which narrowed the gap to $6.5 million.
Through a line by line review, we next identified $2.7 million in cost savings, including:
BY Steve Maginnis | Tuesday, Mar 04, 2014 7:00am |
Update by Editor: Some clarification on items are found at the end of this article.
Picking up where he left off at the Board of Education’s February 24 meeting, the board’s Chief Operating Officer, Brian Fleischer, presented a proposed Montclair Schools budget for the 2014-15 school year. He zeroed in on the fund balance, which he had cited as a source of increased funding for teachers’ salaries and other recurring expenses in previous years. He advocated more spending on computers and a greater spending on capital projects to keep school facilities in good shape.
Fleischer noted that the fund balance, after reaching $13.9 million in 2012, is expected to be spent down to $9.3 million, with $2.2 million in excess calculated by an audit at the end of June 2013 to be added into the 2014-15 as required by the state. The estimated excess at the end of this June is expected to be $265,015, further illuminating the pressure from recurring expenses.
Fleischer cited the importance of leaving enough room by maintaining the 2 percent fund balance in the budget for unforeseen expenditures, based on conservative estimates.
BY Georgette Gilmore | Monday, Mar 03, 2014 8:00am |
If you have a child who will be starting kindergarten in Montclair in September 2014, the Elementary School tours will take place on Monday, March 17 through March 27. And in order to see all the schools, you will need to juggle your schedule to make it happen.
Through the years, we’ve shared our experiences with the tours, our take on the schools and the wait-it-out process:
BY Georgette Gilmore | Saturday, Mar 01, 2014 8:00am |
The Montclair Middle School Open House tours will run from Monday, March 3 – Thursday, March 6.
Families may tour the three middle schools in town to decide if they are happy with their child entering the chosen feeder school or would like to submit School Placement Request Form so their child can attend another school.
BY Georgette Gilmore | Friday, Feb 28, 2014 2:32pm |
The NJ Department of Education announced on Thursday the level of state aid for New Jersey schools that reflect the highest levels of K-12 funding in the state’s history. Direct state aid for education will now exceed the $9 billion mark.
Total state aid for education will increase by $36.8 million, from $8.977 billion this year to a total of 9.014 billion in fiscal 2015.
Governor Christie stated, “Our Fiscal Year 2015 Budget provides the most funding in New Jersey history for education for a fourth year in a row.”
Every K-12 school district will see an increase in aid based on its projected student enrollment. The per-pupil funding – which amounts to an additional $20 for every student – will be added to the amount that each district received last year and would be available through two new aid categories:
BY Georgette Gilmore | Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 10:00am |
Athena Collaborative Group, a non-profit organization that supports, encourages and empowers women to enter into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers, has announced the 3rd Annual March Mathness will take place March 14 – 31 in Montclair.
March Mathness offer a variety of fun, informative and exciting math and science related activities at multiple locales throughout town for kids of all ages.
Planned 2014 festival activities include a Pi Day celebration, a Math Bee Contest, STEM Career Panel, a learn to code class, Music and Math and much more!
BY Andrew Gideon | Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 12:00pm |
The following is an Op-Ed by Andrew Gideon, a Montclair father of two public school students.
Over the past few years, readers of Barista Kids, the Montclair Times and attendees at Board of Education meetings have fairly regularly heard that we should “spend the surplus.” As we learned this Monday at the Board Budget meeting, that’s what the district has been doing. And now we’re done; the surplus is spent.
Let’s first review what this surplus actually is. For something that is so often misunderstood, it is actually very simple. Every year, the district prepares a budget. The district is not permitted to go over the budget. Hitting the budget exactly, as anyone involved in serious budgeting knows, is unlikely. Therefore, it is almost guaranteed that the district will actually spend less money than it budgeted. That’s the surplus.
BY Steve Maginnis | Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 8:00am |
It was the Watchung School staff’s turn to present a teacher’s report of “What’s working and What’s not working” for their school at the February 24 Budget Meeting of the Montclair Board of Education.
Watchung School teachers cited the excellent caliber of the staff, such as their advanced degrees and superior academic performance as evidence of what is working.
The teachers also reported that Watchung continues to win many honors.
“We have been awarded the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon three times,” they said. “We have also been recognized by the state as a star school, and most recently, we were honored with the distinction as a rewards school for outstanding student achievement.”
They also credited Watchung parents for helping with tutoring and volunteering to coordinate extracurricular activities.