Category Archives: School cuts

>A special state budget update from NJPP President Deborah Howlett

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In his budget address three months ago, Governor Christie outlined his view of the “new normal” in New Jersey. It went something like this:

  • Rich people get tax breaks.
  • The middle class pays more.
  • We all make do with less.

Most states, instead of relying solely on cuts to services – cuts that threaten jobs and economic recovery and hurt struggling families – have adopted a balanced approach that includes revenues. But the plan laid out by the governor was cuts-only. It would close state facilities for the profoundly disabled; continue last year’s devastating cuts to schools; and require deep reductions in health insurance coverage for people with no place else to turn.

Over the next month or so, lawmakers and the governor will work in Trenton toward agreement on a state spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

NJPP will be in the thick of things.

As we have for 14 years, NJPP is fighting for the return of fair and progressive fiscal policies that until recently provided opportunities for all New Jerseyans and prosperity that was broadly shared across the Garden State. In a series of emails over the next couple of weeks I’ll give you more details, but here are a few highlights of the work that NJPP is doing to make a difference.

  • Senior Analyst Ray Castro is a leading voice in the independent and critical analysis of how cuts to NJ Family Care, the state Earned Income Tax Credit, and Medicaid will make it harder for poor and working families to get by.
  • A study by NJPP and the national group Demos showed that a bill to deregulate telecommunications in New Jersey would cost consumers, especially the poor and the elderly. Using the findings in the report, NJ Citizen Action and AARP went to work on lawmakers and in a grassroots effort that included more than 10,000 phone calls to legislative offices they succeeded in getting the measure tabled.
  • NJPP’s report on the proliferation of corporate subsidies is the foundation for ongoing efforts by the Better Choices coalition, of which we’re a member, to restore badly needed revenue. Made up of more than 70 nonprofits — including human services, education, religious, and labor groups – Better Choices is a vocal advocate for a proposal developed by NJPP to raise taxes on the wealthiest among us, those with income (not net worth, but income) over $1 million a year.

We’re proud to be a leading voice for common sense in New Jersey, and to strongly and clearly advocate for those who have the smallest voices in the public arena – the middle class, working families, the disabled and the most vulnerable in our society.

That work was spotlighted in a story published recently by the Asbury Park Press, which caught the attention of one of its hometown readers, rock icon Bruce Springsteen. Speaking of NJPP and our partners, Springsteen wrote in a letter to the editor, “These are voices that in our current climate are having a hard time being heard, not just in New Jersey, but nationally.”

Like you, and The Boss, we refuse to accept the idea that there’s a “new normal.”

Not here in New Jersey.

Not this year.

More to come…

Deborah Howlett, President

_____________________________________________________
Update: I want to clarify a point made in our earlier email “Special State Budget Update,” which may have left the impression that as a policy matter NJPP is opposed to the closing of state institutions for people with developmental disabilities. We absolutely are not. Further, we understand it is important that the effort to close these institutions be fully funded by the state so that people with disabilities can live in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

Sincerely,

Deborah Howlett, President

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Filed under AARP, Bruce Springsteen, Debrorah Howlett, Gov. Chris Christie, health care cuts, Middle Class, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ State Budget, School cuts, service cuts, tax breaks for the rich, Trenton

Middletown school officials unhappy with $2.1 million budget cut

It will be interesting to see what action the school board takes when it votes on the adoption of the new school budget on May 26th. Will they accept the recommendations made by Gerry Scharfenberger and the Township Committee or will they look at other areas in the budget to cut the $2.1M from? Either way the prospects don’t sound good for the school system.

From the Asbury Park Press

MIDDLETOWN — Eliminating vice principal positions would jeopardize safety and the ability to implement state mandates, Schools Superintendent Karen Bilbao said she told township officials recently as they discussed prospective cuts to the district’s tax levy.

The Township Committee recommended eliminating two vice principal positions as part of its order Monday to cut nearly $2.1 million from a proposed $123.8 million tax levy that voters rejected last month.

Other recommended cuts are the jobs of one of the district’s two assistant business administrators, a night foreman and a public relations official.

The committee voted 4-0 Monday night to order the tax levy cut. Township Committeewoman Pamela Brightbill was absent.

Under the reduction, school property taxes would increase by 1.7 percent instead of 3.9 percent, Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante said. The school tax rate would increase by 2.3 cents instead of 4.2 cents per $100 of assessed value, he said.

“This is really going to impact the quality of education in the district,” Board of Education Vice President Dan Skelton said Tuesday. “I don’t know how we are going to continue.”

The final cuts contained several suggestions made by the district, Bilbao said, including an $803,878 adjustment to the health insurance plan appropriation, a savings of $465,829 by refinancing a bond and a $150,000 reduction in nursing services costs.

But the suggested administrative salary cuts — a vice principal from each high school at a savings of $130,000 annually each, a $126,000-a-year director position and a $91,000-a-year assistant business administrator position — came as a surprise to her, Bilbao said.

High School North has six assistant principals and a principal while High School South has five assistant principals and a principal. During the 2007-08 school year, High School North had 1,651 students while High School South had 1,451 students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics website.

Appeal not likely

The board will meet in a special closed session later this week to discuss the additional cuts, said Bilbao, who anticipates a vote on the final budget during a May 26 meeting.

Barring a successful appeal to the Monmouth County schools superintendent, the school board must cut the amount the governing body ordered, but does not have to follow the committee’s recommendations on how to do so.

Skelton does not anticipate the district will attempt to appeal.

“I don’t know if this is the type of political climate where you can appeal,” Skelton said.

The committee initially was set to cut about $1.6 million, but decided to continue chopping after it received hundreds of e-mails from residents upset about their taxes, Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger said.

“There are going to be a lot of people complaining that we did not cut enough,” Scharfenberger said.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, budget cuts, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Board of Education, School cuts, Superintendent Karen Bilbao

Middletown Board of Education Blindsided By Additional Cuts

In yet another example of how arrogance and political posturing has overtaken sound judgment and honesty, Mayor Scharfenberger and his crew blindsided the Middletown Board of Education last night with Resolution NO. 10-151, which details the further budget cuts that the Township Committee expects the Board of Education to make to its 2010/2011 school year budget.

I say blindsided because until I posted details of Resolution NO. 10-151 on this blog, members of the Board of Education had not been given the courtesy a head of time of knowing that most of the cuts outlined were going to be included.

From what I have been told, the members of the Board of Education that sat down with Gerry Scharfenberger and Pam Brightbill for their two meeting on May 3rd and May 6th presented ~ $1.5 million worth of cuts on their own to the Township representatives that were in attendance. They had thought that there was agreement between them and that no additional cuts would be needed. These cuts came from savings in the employee health insurance plan ($803,878), the refinancing of a bond ($465,829), modifications to the nursing services contract ($150,000) and a change to the summer guidance program ($70,000).

Boy, were they wrong!

Stating that the Committee relied on the hundreds of suggestions that they had received through the Township website, the mayor said that he felt obligated to seek out more on his own. So without further correspondences with the BoE and little knowledge as to how further cuts would affect the school system, he stated last night that he feverishly scoured the budget over the last days to find additional cuts. What he came up with was another ~ $600K, all of which seemed politically motivated and consisted of the elimination of Classroom supplies ($58,000),1 Night Foreman position ($50,117),1 Public Relations position ($16,000),1 Assistant Business Administrator ($91,000),1 Assistant Principal HS South ($130,000),1 Assistant Principal HS North ($130,000) and1 Director Position ($126,000).

What’s funny about this is that after mayor Scharfenberger’s open and public sparing match with the MTEA, which contributed nothing to the process other than to further alienate anger and poison resident’s opinion of the teachers union, he seemed to have given up on that fight. Instead the focused turned to comments left on the website over the past few days, sparing the teachers from additional cuts.

The question remains though, were these addition cuts really necessary? According to those with knowledge of the school budget the answer is No. They said that these additional cuts will have devastating effects on the school system regardless of the spin that Gerry Scharfenberger or his deputy mayor, Tony Fiore place on them. Fiore made the following comment after the resolution was introduced “My hope is that this is a meaningful cut… these cuts, they do not cut one teacher, they do not cut one program.”

While that may be the intent, the reality is something far different. I was informed that members of the school board told Scharfenberger just that during their meetings. Cutting more administrators from the school budget would have crippling effects on the quality of education that children receive in the classroom he was told.

The Assistant Principals at the high schools main functions are supervisory; they oversee the curriculum, evaluate teacher performance and act as disciplinarians to maintain order in schools that have close to 2000 students each. After already eliminating seven positions district wide previously in the failed budget, equalivent to 14% of the administrative staff, the loss of two more cannot be tolerated without having a direct, long term effect in the classroom.

And what about the $58K further reduction in the budget for classroom supplies? I was told that that line item was already trimmed previously by 10%, did more really need to be cut? I guess so if you don’t expect to need new text books or expect parents to purchase more supplies for their kids than they already do now.

Even though the school board is now bound and obligated to reduce the school budget by an additional $2.09M by the Township Committee, I would be surprised if they implemented their recommendations fully.

In my opinion, I think that the district will be looking into the possible layoff of a handful of more teachers, the possible elimination of non varsity sports programs or a sports program that will be based on a pay-to-play fee system and the possible closure of a district school, which I was told could not be fully implemented this year but could happen next year.

I also would not be surprised if the Board of Education appealed this budget to the Monmouth County schools superintendent in the hope to overturn the addition $600K worth of cuts that the Township Committee imposed on them without their previous knowledge or input.

If that happened then there would be little need for further layoffs of any kind, the possible elimination of any extracurricular programs or the possible closure of a school. Let’s hope that the County Superintendent agrees.

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Filed under budget cuts, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Township Committee, school budgets, School cuts, Tony"the fibber"Fiore

Middletown Schools In Investigation Mode

In a somewhat snarky recap of Wednesday nights Middletown Board of Education reorganization meeting, Dustin Racioppi of the redbankgreen.com, writes about how the school board has some more investigating to do before it can give answers to the public about services that will be effected once the Township Committee is finished with the review of the recently defeated school budget and make further cuts to it.

I think that until Superintendent Bilbao and the rest of the school board know exactly how much will be cut from the budget, it wouldn’t have been prudent to announce whether or not more teachers would be laid off, schools closed or after school programs eliminated. Many things are still up in the air and until a final number is issued by the Township Committee anything announced would be speculation:

The Middletown Board of Education could staff a detective bureau with all the investigating it’s doing and has ahead.

Investigating was the buzzword from the district Superintendent Karen Bilbao Wednesday night when pushed for details on where and how cuts would be made to the district’s $140.3 million budget, which was rejected by voters last week.

As in, will more teachers have to be laid off? She’s investigating.

Or, will there be redistricting, or school closings, as Bilbao has hinted at before?

“Closing a school or more than one school is one of the areas we said needed to be investigated,” Bilbao said.

“We are investigating a lot of things at this point.”

Read more >>> Here

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Filed under budget cuts, Middletown Board of Education, RedBankGreen.com, school budgets, School cuts, Superintendent Karen Bilbao

Christie Cuts State Aid To Middletown’s Schools By $7.2 Million, What does It Mean?


Wednesday afternoon School Districts all over the state learned how much state aid they could expect from Trenton this year, some districts had all state aid withheld while other had little to no aid cut from their budgets.

In Middletown’s case more than $7.2 million or roughly 34% has been cut from state aid, which is on top of the loss of over $2.8 million in surplus funds that Gov. Christie instructed the school system to use earlier this month to make up for the difference in aid that would not be coming to finish out the school year.

At last nights Board of Education meeting, the Board was suppose to unveil its proposed budget for the upcoming school year but could not due to the latest announcement.

Earlier this month, the Board already announced the layoff of 36 teachers, 18 paraprofessionals,2 administrators, 4 secretaries and 4 facilities staffers as a result of the aid cut, now what is the school district suppose to due about this latest announced aid cut that will amount to an $11 million hole in it’s budget, how many more staff members will Middletown lose as a result? I would think doubling the amount of staff cuts would be the starting point.
How many teachers, administrators and support staff will have to be let go? Will a school somewhere in the district have to be closed? If so, which one and what will that do to class sizes throughout the district. Class size averages about 22 kids per class right now, will class size increase to 35 or more per classroom?
How about after school programs and extra-curricular activities? Will sports programs be cut, what will Middletown do without football, soccer, wrestling, field hockey or other sports to keep the community and kids active, involved and engaged in school spirit, self-worth and education?
Gov. Christie doesn’t seem to be all that concerned about how these cuts in aid will effect the education of Middletown students or students in other school districts receive. It seems that all he is concerned about is breaking the back of the NJEA and its members, with little regard for the collateral damage that he will cause in the process.
Christie has told school districts across the state that there should be no need to cut programs or teachers to balance their budgets, he has stated to them that in essence, all a school district needs to do is break existing teacher contracts by freeze pending contractual teacher salary increase and imposing higher health care co-pays on the NJEA members. Which makes a lot of sense since Christie himself realized that he couldn’t do the same thing to state workers in order to balance the State’s budget.
Other than breaking the backs of the public unions in this state, which I’ll admit need to be overhauled in someway, Christie is going after the public education system in order to push his plans for Charter School vouchers and school choice.
Both he and his Education Secretary Bret Schundler, are advocates for Charter Schools even though it has been shown that charter schools often have worse track records at teaching our kids than public schools have.
Charter schools are for profit operations that do not always make the right decisions for children based on education standards, they make decisions that effect their bottom line and in so doing the quality of education suffers. Statistics show that for each charter school that has some success 2 or more fail and go out of business.
Is that what New Jerseyians really want for their kids education, a weakened public education system that will drive children to a possibly inferior Charter School? I don’t think so, residents for the most part believe in the public school system and feel that it is an important institution that needs to be maintained.
It may not be perfect but neither are most Charter Schools that are more interested in their bottom line than the overall quality of their education.
This latest announcement of cuts in State aid to education will have devastating effects on Middletown and other municipalities through out Monmouth County and the State.

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Filed under charter schools, Education Funding, Gov. Chris Christie, Middletown Board of Education, Monmouth County, school budgets, School cuts

Who is Behind The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee ?


Has anyone noticed the signs popping up all over Middletown like the one posted to the right?

The signs are from a group calling themselves the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee.
I wasn’t familiar with this group until I saw these signs spring up along the roadside and decided to ask around to see if anyone could enlighten me.
I was informed by a friend who just happens to know the Chairperson of the committee, that The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee is a group who supports the BOE with their budget plans. They try and get public support so the budget gets passed and the signs reflect what Trenton is doing by taking back the surplus money that the BOE wanted to use for tax relief and new programs.
My friend reached out to the Chairperson of the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee on my behalf for more information and I was sent the following statement:
The Middletown school budget has traditionally been built applying funds called Budgeted Tax Relief. These are funds that may be “left over” (surplus) from previous years’ budgets due to economies put in place during the school year. The funds that were squeezed out of that budget were returned to the taxpayers as tax relief to fund next year’s budget (hence the title “budgeted tax relief” and not surplus). So the “tax relief” funds arises from the District being able to save X amount of dollars of the previous budget by implementing cost-saving measures (such as a good year’s negotiations for medical coverage, installing efficient utility systems, etc.), and those savings are used when crafting the next year’s budget to “relieve – basically lower” the levy of local taxes to a level the taxpayers hopefully find acceptable.

Part of budgeting would also normally include allocating a portion of any remaining funds to the “capital reserve” fund to support future capital improvements (infrastructure, systems, fields). The state has taken .5M of Middletown’s accumulated capital reserves.

With the state taking the tax relief and reserves, the District has to rely on “real tax dollars” from this year, as well as pulling remaining capital reserve. Keep in mind that the State often imposes mandates on Districts without funding them. What this means is when the state says “you must have full-day kindergarten,” and there are specific regulations as to the physical structure of a kindergarten classroom, a district must fund that out of somewhere.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: 84% of the funds that the Governor authorized to withhold from Middletown are local taxpayer dollars. Senator J. Kyrillos, at the Middletown BOE Forum last week, admitted he had no idea the funds that were taken were predominantly funded by local taxpayer dollars. It appears he assumed that the funds were 100% state aid dollars held in reserve and therefore the state was still funding the approved budget by withholding committed funds and saying “keep the funds you already have from us.” For the 2009-2010 school budget year Middletown was supposed to receive only 16% in state aid (versus 41% average across the state). The checks have now stopped, and Middletown has been directed to use our $2.3 million tax relief and $.5 million capital reserves to cover the state’s shortfall. IF THE STATE IS WITHDRAWING STATE AID, THEY SHOULD ONLY BE TAKING 16% of $2.8 MILLION, NOT ALL OF IT. 84% OF THAT IS MIDDLETOWN DOLLARS RAISED FOR MIDDLETOWN CHILDREN!!

WE PAID OUR STATE TAXES. WE PAID OUR LOCAL TAXES SPECIFICALLY FOR MIDDLETOWN. NOW OUR STATE TAXES ARE GONE, SO OUR STATE AID IS GONE, AND THEY WANT OUR LOCAL REAL ESTATE TAXES TO SUPPORT THE ENTIRE STATE!

So where does Middletown stand right now? Based on the funding the state has withdrawn, and assuming that the state aid of 16% from last year is not reduced (highly unlikely), and also assuming that the Middletown taxpayers vote to pass the current budget on April 20th, we can expect to lose 36 teachers (in addition to 28 other positions ranging from Administration to Facilities). That is the “best case scenario” as we stand right now. If the Middletown voters vote to not pass the budget, the budget is presented to the township committee who can vote to cut the budget further, resulting in even more cuts.

The worst-case scenario is that the state follows through on a full 15% cut to Middletown’s current funding, which would result in a potential loss of over 80 teachers, additional positions, and program cuts! If the Middletown voters will not pass even that budget, additional positions and programs will have to be cut to make up for a potential township cut.

Think about the impact of 80+ families in Middletown and the surrounding areas losing their income. This is not an issue just affecting Middletown; this situation is happening across over 600 districts in this state. Lost jobs equals loss of income tax and sales tax to the state. Lost jobs equals unemployment, and the state has said the unemployment system is bankrupt. Lost jobs equals loss of property tax when families leave NJ for a cheaper place to live.

The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee, Inc.

Relevant documentation:

BOE forum presentation and spread sheets @ http://www.middletownk12.org/superintendent/files/FINAL%20Presentation%20without%20NOTES.pdf.

The text of the speech given by President Laura Agin of the Middletown Board of Education @
http://www.dollarsandsense.bz/.

In my opinion, this is a fight that parents with school kids need to get involved with and support the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee and the Middeltown Board of Education. Not only will there be a lay-off of teachers and supporting school staff,l but there will be after school programs cut as well with little or no money for new books or other essential supplies available for the students use.

And if that wasn’t bad enough after all the $2.8 million in budget cuts are over with, the School Board will still have to raise the tax rate just to maintain what is left for next year.

Middletown needs this money to maintain what they have and hopefully the Christie Administration will come to their senses and realize that by taking surplus money away from
school districts across the state to plug his own budget gap is wrong and will return the portion of the surplus that was not directly due to aid payments from Trenton.

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Filed under budget cuts, Gov. Chris Christie, Joe Kyrillos, Middeltown Board of Education, Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee, School cuts, Trenton

Middletown School Board Invites Governor to Forum To Discuss How The Proposed Cuts to State Aid Will Affect Schools

From the Atlantic Highlands Herald

Middletown, NJ – On Thursday, March 4, the Middletown Township School District will host a forum on the way Governor’s proposed cuts to state aid will affect the school district. The forum will be held at the Middletown High School North Auditorium at 7:30 PM. The school is located at 63 Tindall Road in Middletown, off Route 35 North. Governor Chris Christie has been personally invited to the forum to learn how his proposals may directly result in nearly $6 million in cuts to the largest K-12 school district in Monmouth County. Middletown’s elected officials are expected to take part in the forum panel. The public is invited and encouraged to learn how the Governor’s proposals to balance the state budget will impact education in Middletown and throughout New Jersey.

The Governor’s recent actions to substitute school district surplus for state aid reduced funding for Middletown’s 2010-2011 budget by $2.3 million, and reduced our State Aid by $2.8 million overall. District surplus results from efficiencies in budgeting and saved cost accumulated through the year. These savings are directly applied to reduce the amount taxpayers are asked to fund the school budget the next year. It is more appropriately labeled taxpayer relief. The Governor’s actions will essentially increase Middletown property taxes to fund the state’s budget deficit. This is not an equitable action and the Middletown School District and its taxpayers are being penalized for the district’s frugality. Middletown has consistently remained efficient and fiscally prudent, as evidenced by the district maintaining a per pupil cost well below the state average.
Middletown Business Administrator William Doering recently testified to the State Assembly Budget Committee, stating, “Our district and several others have worked hard to achieve savings and have aggressively managed our budgets to save as much money as possible.”

Nice try by the Middletown Board of Education to put a spotlight on the districts needs and to inform residents of the problems that will be created when Gov. Christie imposes aid cuts to school districts, by inviting him to discuss his cuts to school districts in a town hall like forum.

I just don’t think Christie has enough in him to to handle such a meeting and have to answer how cuts to education will effect the local tax structure, to devote an hour or more of his time to defend himself in front of an auditorium full of angry taxpayers who will question his judgement on the issue.

So I wouldn’t expect to see him there, but it should be worthwhile for residents to attend anyway to hear how the school district and local officials intends to handle the cuts in state aid.

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Filed under budget cuts, Gov. Chris Christie, Middletown, Middletown Board of Education, School cuts, town hall meeting