Thursday, February 28, 2013

2013-14 Edison school budget presented under tax cap

Republished from Kathy Chang's article in The Sentinal.

Superintendent of Schools Richard O’Malley has presented the Edison Public Schools’ preliminary budget for 2013-14, a spending plan that he said maintains the focus on teaching and learning.

The $213.8 million budget is under the state-mandated 2 percent cap on tax-levy increases. The total tax levy for the 2012-13 school year was $188 million, and the proposed tax levy for 2013-14 is just under $191.1 million. Most of the major increases to the budget have to do with instructional salary increases. Salaries and wages totaled $94,655,445 in 2012-13, and will increase by $2.5 million to $97,189,208 in 2013-14.

Eight new positions are included in the proposed budget — four library aides, three teachers and one driver.

The preliminary budget was presented at the Board of Education’s Feb. 20 caucus meeting. The board was expected to discuss and vote on adopting the package on Feb. 25.

School administrators said they hope the district will receive at least the same amount of state aid as in 2012-13, which was $14.3 million. State aid figures are expected to be forthcoming later this week.

O’Malley noted that the district’s total increase in spending is less than 1 percent, the lowest since 1994, with the exception of 2010, when aid cuts forced the district to reduce its budget, according to school Business Administrator Dan Michaud.

O’Malley explained that the budget cuts of 2010 included library aides. With the proposed addition of four library aides, the James Madison Primary, Lindeneau, James Monroe and Washington elementary schools will now have aides, and this will bring parity to all of the schools in that respect.

The district is proposing to add one teacher for the gifted-and-talented program, a fifth-grade teacher at John Marshall Elementary School and one music-technology teacher.

The addition of three new teachers will bring the district up to 1,128 teaching positions. Total salaries for teachers will be $92,672,981.

According to O’Malley, because of an increase in the employee contribution cost for salary benefits, from $2.7 million to $3.6 million, the increase in the budget for benefits will be about $40,000 — from $31,751,200 in 2012-13 to $31,792,000 in 2013-14.

The salaries for central administration, which still represent the second-lowest total administrative costs and the lowest salaries and benefits per student in the state, according to O’Malley, will increase by about $318,000, from $6,290,179 in 2012-13 to $6,607,976 for 2013-14.

O’Malley said school security, which has been a hot issue locally and across the nation, will see the existing 10 security officers remain, with five stationed at each of the two high schools. The police security salary totals $5,000.

The superintendent said significant strides have been made in technology since he came to the district in 2011. The technology line totals $1,345,000, which will include the installation of computer labs at the Menlo Park and James Monroe elementary schools.

Textbook costs total $1,001,000.

“We actually cut the textbook line by $400,000,” O’Malley said.

Capital-outlay site-improvement projects total $1,644,000, which aside from sidewalk and pavement improvements, include renovations to the food classrooms at three of the middle schools and at Edison High School, as well as to the wing that will be used for the science and engineering academy at Edison High School. It will also fund a replacement for an antiquated boiler and some lockers at Herbert Hoover Middle School; and repairs to the auditorium and water-damaged walls from when a portion of the at J.P. Stevens High School roof came off during superstorm Sandy.

O’Malley and Michaud noted that $3.3 million is on hold for whenever they receive access to their portion of the Camp Kilmer site. The Sgt. Joyce Kilmer Reserve Center at the Camp Kilmer site officially closed in 2009. Along with 120 proposed affordable housing units, other possible uses include a preschool and a community center. The township’s Department of Public Works might also make some use of the site. The extra building space is sorely needed, school officials said, adding that their elementary school classrooms are filled to the maximum, with Woodbrook Elementary School having 28 students per classroom.

Full-day kindergarten was one of the cuts made in 2010 and it remains that way due to overcrowding issues, school officials said.

“If we had full-day kindergarten in place, those class sizes would likely exceed 30 students. … Woodbrook would see over 40 students,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley will travel around the district, presenting the budget from March 17-24. The district will then hold a public hearing and final budget adoption on March 21 at 7 p.m. at Herbert Hoover Middle School.

The school budget goes to the public for a vote on April 16.