Category Archives: school budgets

Board of Education Elections Move From April To November This Year

In case you missed it, the NJ Legislature recently passed legislation (Bill A4394) that allows school board elections to be moved to the general election in November. The new law also stipulates that the school budget does not need to be approved by the public if the budget increase is within the 2% cap. However, referendums and supplemental budget items would still require public approval.

At its 1/18/12 meeting, the Middletown Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to move its election, normally held in April, to November. The Board terms that would have expired this April are automatically extended until November. Five spots on the Board are up for election at that time, Joan Minnuies, Michael Donlon and Leonora Caminiti are up for re-election while new members Sue Griffin and James Cody, who filled unexpired terms of resigning board members, will be listed on the November ballot.

For the record, I’m not against moving the Board of Education elections to November per say. I think the more people that come out to vote, for or against, the candidates and school budget the better. Citizen participation is a good thing.

What I worry about however is that these elections will become much more politicized than they are now, which will take away from and could be confused with, real issues that effect local governments and school systems.

Board of Education candidates will align themselves with the political parties and will feel pressure to tow the party line and adhere to the wishes of state and local party bosses, over the best interests of those in the school systems.

To run an effective municipal campaign for Township Committee, campaigns could spend in excess of $100,000 to win an election. In contrast most school board candidates spend less than $7,000.

A town’s Board of Education will essentially be up for sale each year to the special interests that donate the most to the candidates up for election , it could get messy.

Last weeks edition of the Independent has an article about the Middletown Board of Education’s decision to switch it’s election from April to November.

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Filed under Bill A4394, Middletown Board of Education, NJ State Legislature, School Board elections, school budgets

>Unofficial Result Of Middletown BOE Election With 90% Of The Vote Counted

>With about 90% of the votes counted, according to the Monmouth County Clerks website, here are the unofficial results from today’s Middletown Board of Education election:

Full Term:

– Richard Morrill 1,478 11.92%
– Barry Allan Travis 1,416 11.42%
Bob Banta 2,609 21.05%
– Robert Superti 1,365 11.01%
John Macrae 3,181 25.66%
Gerald Wexelberg 2,275 18.35%
Write-In 71 0.57%
Total 12,395 100.00%

1 year Unexpired Term:

– Allan Burns 1,496 34.02%
– Ernest Donnelly 1,344 30.56%
Leonora Caminiti 1,539 34.99%
Write-In 19 0.43%
Total 4,398 100.00%

As of this moment the results of the school budget voting are to close to call, it seem that it will be down to the wire on this one, so far there is a 1 vote difference the approval of the budget and it’s defeat:

– Yes 2,930 50.01%
– No 2,929 49.99%
Total 5,859 100.00%

________________________________________________

Update 11:17 pm

Unofficial results according to the Monmouth County Clerk after 100% of the vote counted, Middletown’s School Budget passed by 125 votes. The candidate results have not changed:

Yes 3,332 50.96%
– No 3,207 49.04%
Total 6,539 100.00%

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Filed under Middletown Board of Education, monmouth county clerk, School Board elections, school budgets

>Robert Superti, Candidate Middletown Board Of Education

>I received the following letter from Robert Superti, who is seeking to be elected to fill 1 of 3 – full three year terms on Middletown Board of Education during tomorrow’s April 27th, 2011 school board election:

As a candidate for the Middletown Board of Education I have spoken at all four scheduled forums for the Board candidates, distributed hundreds of copies of my history of experience and knowledge. I have delivered recorded messages of my philosophy for action in the school system. I’ve returned numerous phone calls to my home and answered all questions of concerns involving our school system.

In all of my conversations of our community two main themes emerge as major concerns about our school system. One is cost (taxes) and the other is quality of education. The cost issue involves decreased funding from government agencies, loss of revenue due to individuals loss of income and increased cost of living: which increases the tax burden of those who still pay taxes.

The quality of education involves mandated legislation that was intended to improve productivity: but has failed to do so. The administration and faculty have expended time and energy to carry out those mandates.

Our community pays a staff of experienced professional to implement our goals for education. They should not be micro-managed by outside interests to perform their duties. If good proposals are submitted by outside interests our managers should decide on how those ideas are implemented in the system.

If our managers appear not to be performing well then it is the responsibility of the Board of education to intervene to remedy the situation. The Board of Education represents the entire community: therefore representatives that consist of administration, faculty, parents, community activists, and the Board members should participate in dialog to forge a unified vision and approach to maintain and improve our system.

When I say, “Stop exploitation of our schools” I refer to the imposition imposed by negative rhetoric that emerges from representatives of government who decry that our tax burdens are primarily due to school budgets. Political negative rhetoric or spin doctoring is an effective tool to divert attention or resistance to other desired agendas.

Negative rhetoric demonizing of teachers and unfunded mandates degrade productivity in our school system.

Please vote for me, Robert Superti, line #4 in this year’s Middletown School Board election tomorrow, April 27th, 2011.

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Filed under Candidates, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown NJ, Robert Superti, school budgets, school elections

>MiddletownPatch: Six Candidates Vie For Three Open Full-Term Dais Seats

>MiddletownPatch this morning has followed up yesterday’s article “Three BOE Candidates Seek One-Year Term” which profiled the three people who are seeking the 1 year unexpired term to the Middletown Board of Education, with a profile of the six who are seeking three – 3 year terms to the board.

Today’s article “Six Candidates Vie For Three Open Full-Term Dais Seats” is very well written and informative. If you haven’t seen or heard the candidates speak for yourself at the various Candidate Forums held over the past two weeks, the column on the MiddletownPatch website gives good impressions of the individual candidates.
Below is a portion of what was written, go to MiddletownPatch to finish reading:

“The three incumbent Middletown Township Board of Education members whose seats are up on the nine-member board are not running in this year’s election. Vying to fill their three-year seats are six newcomers to the race.

Each has pointed to a vast number of issues they’d like to address in the district if elected.

In interviews with the candidates, everything from better budget balancing, to improvement of school facilities, to exploration of more shared services, to greater focus on academics were listed as motivations for running.

Others cited imminent district needs such as transparency, tackling pension reform and review and reassessment of administrators’ salaries. One candidate said that the simple addressing of “negative rhetoric” on and around the board is critical.

All felt they had the expertise, qualifications and background necessary to make them most qualified for the job.

Voters will decide at the polls tomorrow, April 27, which of the three candidates running for the three-year terms will serve as their new Board of Education members.

In the meantime, Patch has the background and comments of each for your review …

Bob Superti, 36 Oakwood Road

Superti has been retired from AT&T, where he worked for 35 years, since 1989, as an auditor and technological consultant. In his line of work, he said, reducing costs for customers, improving productivity and expanding AT&T’s client “enterprise” were his areas of expertise.

Outside of the corporate structure, in the political arena, for approximately three years Superti has been a county Democratic committeeman. He also volunteers his time promoting the Middletown Fire Department and working with the non-profit 180 Turning Lives Around. He is a life member of both the Red Bank Elks and the McKee Technical High School Alumni.

While he has never served on the Middletown Board of Education, Superti is a former board member of the Paramus board. He also served on the ad hoc committee for Middletown’s Building and Maintenance Committee, which was charged with studying the school facilities.

“I would bring expertise in maintenance and deteriorating facilities, and finance,” he said. “I know what needs to operate a school system,” pointing out that in his career he has analyzed insurance policies and understands contracts. With that sort of experience, he feels he can better help clarify and address areas of concern in the school district.

Calling himself a troubleshooter by nature, Superti also said his understanding of how spending works and past experience examining proficiencies in a company would be beneficial contributions to the board.

“I would attack all the negative rhetoric that is hurting our schools, clarify the false statements, such as demonizing our teachers,” he said. “Many things that are said that are inaccurate about our schools, I would be the voice to verify some of those things,” he said….”

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Filed under Board of Education Candidates, Middletown Board of Education, MiddletownPatch.com, school budgets, school elections

>Banta and Wexelberg, Candidates Middletown Board of Education

>I was forwarded the following email from a friend who had received it from another. The email is from Middletown Board of Education Candidate Bob Banta, who along with his ticket mate Jerry Wexelberg, are each seeking to be elected to 1 of 3 – full three year terms to the Middletown Board of Education in Wednesday’s Board of Education election.

The email was introductory in nature and tells the readers a little about both Banta and Wexelberg and what they would like to accomplish if elected to the Board of Education:

Parents,

I would like to take a moment to ask for your support and appeal to your sense of community. I have been the Director of Soccer for the St. Mary’s Athletic Association for about 5 years now and with the program for a few more than that. I have had the privilege and honor of working with some of the best volunteers in our community dedicated to youth sports here from our SMAA Board of Directors to all of our Coaches and Assistant Coaches, as well as hundreds of the best kids anywhere! In this time, I have seen our program grow from about 35 teams of approximately 350 kids to our present 78 teams of OVER 1100 kids.

One of the great things about this program is that it is made up of kids from all over Middletown, from many of the elementary and middle schools as well as St. Mary’s and some of the other Catholic schools. There have been drastic budget cuts to the Board of Education’s budget last year and this years budget is well under the 2% cap set by the Governor. If afforded an opportunity, I would like to make sure all the kids in our town are receiving the best education possible as well as be part of the process to ensure that these budget cuts don’t translate to necessary programs being cut. I am sure that as a fellow taxpayer you may agree that all of our tax dollars for education should be carefully spent on the children’s education and not wasted in areas that the kids do not receive a direct benefit from. I would also like to see that all of the youth programs in town have a better and more realistic opportunity to use the existing facilities at our public schools which all of our taxes support. I am looking forward to helping the existing board work together in one direction and use my unique team building skills to unite the other board members. These are some of the reasons I have filed the paperwork to be on the ballot for the Middletown Board of Education election this April.

Finally, I would like to let all the parents know that I am going to be running with Jerry Wexelberg in this election. Jerry is a longtime Middletown resident and has supported the education system as well as the athletic programs of our public schools for many years now. He is currently the President of the Booster Club for High School North. Jerry and I share many of the same views on many issues related to the Board of Education.

Thank you for your time and consideration and I hope we can count on your support on Election Day! Please ask as many families, friends and neighbors as possible to come out this coming Wednesday, April 27th and vote.

Sincerely,

Bob Banta
SMAA Director of Soccer

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Filed under Candidates, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown NJ, school budgets, school elections

>Middletown Board Of Education Approves $144 Million Funding Plan

>At last night’s Middletown Board of Education meeting, the school board approved a $144 million dollar spending plan for fY 2011-2012, that will be presented to voters on April 27th.

According to the Asbury Park Press’s article, the spending plan seems reasonable and I see no reason for voters to reject it. The budget will increase by 1.38% which is well below Governor Christie’s 2% cap on budget spending.
This budget will provide for the hiring of additional teachers this year, which will help to alleviate classroom overcrowding in a few of the districts school.
I was not at last night’s meeting but from what I was told, a few who were in attendance questioned the leanness of the budget and whether or not the school board left enough wiggle room within it in case it was rejected by voters, as it was last year.
I was told that the response to this questions was that the budget was purposely put together lean in an attempt to show residents and the Township Committee that this budget, unlike previous one, was honest and reflective of the times. And if the budget was rejected, it would be devastating to the district.
The main thing that I am curious about, is how contract negotiations with the teacher’s union is going. unlike in years past, these talks have been relatively quite but still unresolved over issues concerning healthcare contributions. So I wonder how the Board of Education can produce and honest, lean budget without a signed contract with the teachers?

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Filed under 2% cap, Asbury Park Press, blogging, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Township Committee, school budgets, teacher contracts

>Finally Some News About Middletown’s Proposed School Budget

>In today’s issue of the Independent which was posted online Tuesday night, comes word about the proposed Middletown School budget.

According to the article, a special school board meeting was held on March 2nd to introduce the school budget. This year’s budget would increase over last year budget by 2%, which would equate to a $2,445,064 increase in the tax levy and would support a budget that would be $145,211,537 or roughly $6.5 million more than last year.
There are a few things that were mentioned in the article that strike me in a good way and one thing that potentially troubles me.
Much of this year’s budget increase would go towards restoring some of the things that were lost after last years budget defeat. Things like capital improvements to High School North, funding for technology and the hiring back of 5.5 teachers (I wonder what happen to the other half).
What I found trouble about what was contained in the article was that it mentioned that contract talks between the MTEA and the Middletown Board of Education has reached an impasse, and now both sides are waiting to hear from the Public Employment Relations Commission to determine if negotiations should resume.
It turns out that this proposed budget was put together with the idea that the MTEA would accept a wage freeze for the 20011/2012 school year and contribute more towards their health benefits, which would help to offset a $4 million increase in health care costs.
I would hope that after the beating the MTEA took last year in the public opinion of residents, they would be slightly more lenient in their contract negotiations this year with the school system for the public good and in an effort to somewhat reform their image.
Without being involved in those negotiations however, it is hard to determine if good faith negotiations and measures have taken place between the two side. So I won’t pass judgement on either side just yet.
I am sure though, that as this impasse progresses and the time comes closer to having the School budget voted on in April, we’ll hear an awful lot more about this.
You can read the article >>> Here

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Filed under budget introduction, contract impasse, Middletown Board of Education, MTEA, school budgets, Teachers

>Middletown School Board Meeting Was Uneventful But Superintendent Bilbao Allowed To Leave Early

>I was unable to attend last night’s Middletown Board of Education meeting even though I had wanted to very much. I had a conflict in my schedule that just didn’t allow me the time to make it. I was curious if anything would be mentioned about the rumoured BOE member, that has allegedly been ordered removed from the board by the State School Ethics Commission. Luckily though, I did have someone there who was able to report back to me on what happened.

From what I was told, it was a quiet and otherwise uneventful meeting that finished up early, with the big news of the night being that the BOE agreed to allow School Superintendent Karen Bilbao to leave her position within the district early. Bilbao is contractually obligated to stay on the job for 120 days after handing in her resignation, which she handed in on December 1st, but the school board waived that requirement and will allow her to leave on February 1st.
I was told that no real discussions took place at this meeting, on who would replaced Bilbao as Superintendent. As I see it, this could be a problem that I hope doesn’t turn out to be something more significant.
With MTEA Union contract talks looming and the new 2% cap on property taxes that will kick in starting January 1st, it will be important to have some one who is experienced and knowledgeable leading the school district and formulation this years upcoming budget. At the moment there doesn’t seem to be anyone currently capable of handling this.
I have heard from several people that the likely candidate to replace Karen Bilbao as Superintendent of Schools is James Stefankiewicz, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum due to ties that he has within the Monmouth County Department of Education.
Whoever the new Superintendent is I hope that they are in place relatively soon, but only after a well thought out and intensive search for the best possible candidate. The upcoming year will be a challenging one for the Middletown school district and a truly qualified individual is needed to lead it.

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Filed under Karen Bilbao, Middletown Board of Education, MTEA, NJ School Ethics Commission, resignation, retirement, school budgets

How Many Emails Did Middletown Receive When It Requested Resident Input Into Defeated School Budget? Not Close To 700 That Scharfenberger Stated

Well it seems that Middletown’s sorry excuse for a Mayor, Gerry Scharfenberger, has been caught yet again in a gross exaggeration of facts, which leads to the impression that the additional $500K over and above the previously agreed to $1.6M worth of budget cuts that the Board of Education presented to the Middeltown Township Committee back on May 3rd and May 6th was politically motivated.

This latest example comes from the many emails that were sent to the township’s website, after Sharfenberger came up with the brilliant idea to fore go an open public meeting to discuss further budget cuts that should be made to the Middletown school budget which was defeated on April 20th.
Scharfenberger stated at the May 17th Township Committee meeting and was quoted by all of the local newspapers that cover Middletown, that some 700 emails were sent to him via the suggestion portal that was set up on the township website for residents to voice their opinion on what items should or should not be cut from the school budget. Three days later a press release was posted on the township website stating that thanks to the residents for their input and that only 600 emails were gathered. Now after obtaining a copy of all those emails from the Township, I come to find out that the really number of emails sent in by residents was 501.
That’s a pretty big difference if you ask me, more so if you consider that many of the emails seem to be duplicates or have nothing whatsoever to do with suggestions on how to trim the defeated school budget, like spam and self indulgent compliments on defeating the budget. After looking through them, it really looks as if only 300 or so could be considered as legitimate.
Which leaves the question of exactly how many residents sent suggestions to the portal? Were only 50, 100 or 501 residents responsible for sending them all of those emails? We’ll never know for sure because only a small percentage of residents decided to sign their names to them, which was after all their prerogative, considering that the Township suggested that comments be left anonymously.
For anyone interested in reading all those emails themselves you can do so by clicking >>> Here

Note: For those that thought that their comments and suggestions would be kept confidential I am sorry to inform you otherwise, your comments are part of the public record for all to see whether you supported further school budget cuts or requested that the budget should stand as was at the time of the April 20th vote. Anyone could submit an OPRA request and receive the same information that I have.


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Filed under emails, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middeltown Board of Education, Middletown Township, Middletown Township Committee, OPRA, OPRA requests, school budgets

Middletown school board to vote on final spending plan

Good job by Jennifer Bradshaw of the Asbury Park Press reporting on the Middletown school budget that will be voted on at tonights Board of Education meeting (I included her report at the bottom of this post).

The meeting agenda and resolutions were posted on the BoE website late Monday afternoon , I didn’t see them posted until shortly after noon yesterday, but I was unable to post about it until know.
There are a number of things that I found interesting and that pertain to tomorrow night’s meeting that will be open for discussion:

  1. The Meeting Agenda – Page 5 of the agenda lists the reductions in the budget that the BoE will be moving forward with. As Jennifer Bradshaw reports in the article below the BoE did not follow the township committees suggestion to eliminate two vice principals, an assistant business administrator or a directors position for a savings of $347,000. Instead they found savings (breakage) from teachers that announced their retirements since the budget was first proposed.
  2. Personnel Committee Report – This report lists the names of district employees that have announce their retirements, resignations or leaves of absences and contains the resolution which authorizes the further reduction of the work.
  3. Certified Staff – This is a list of all the certified staff members that are being recommended for rehire with their salaries( I was happy to see some names that I am familiar with and disappointed in not seeing others)
  4. Tenured Transfers Reassignments – A list of tenured teachers, guidance counselors and CST’s that have been transferred to other schools or who have had their positions within the school district reassigned
  5. Superintendent Compensation Freeze – Superintendent Karen Bilbao has forgone her contracted raise for the upcoming year and due to the recent change in state law will be contributing 1.5% of her salary towards health benefits. Currently Bilbao contributes $1,200 towards her benefits, that will now increase by $463 for a total of $1,663 inwhich she will have to pay towards her benefits.

I have to give the Board of Education some kudos here because unlike the Gerry Scharfenberger and the Township Committee, in a true showing of transparency, the BoE released the revised budget with all of the important information that pertains to it before their open public meeting tonight. By doing so, the BoE has allowed those interested in their child’s education to see how the additional cuts to the budget will effect them and then allow those parents a chance to speak informatively at the meeting.

The Board of Education should also be commended at this time for not presenting a “doomsday” budget even though funds are tight and the budget is bare-bones, I didn’t see anything about the need to cut sports programs or extracurricular activities at this time, which is a good thing. But we’ll have to wait it out to be sure.

MIDDLETOWN — The Board of Education will vote on the final school budget numbers at its 7:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday night in the auditorium of High School North, 63 Tindall Road.

As part of a more than $2 million reduction ordered by the Township Council, $150,000 will be through a change in nursing services; $803,000 will be through a change to the district’s health insurance carrier; $58,117 savings came from the elimination of a night watchman position; $136,796 through reductions to individual school budgets; $250,000 was saved through salary breakage related to six retirements; $140,000 through attrition; and $16,204 through the elimination of a PR position.

Administrative position cuts suggested by the council do not appear on the final cuts — the council had suggested the elimination of two vice principal positions at the high schools, for a savings of $130,000 each, the elimination of an assistant business administrator position for a savings of $91,000, and the elimination of a $126,000 director position.

The final numbers will have a 2.2 percent increase on township taxes, according to the agenda….


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Filed under Asbury Park Press, budget cuts, Middletown Board of Education, school budgets, Superintendent Karen Bilbao