CHATHAM, NJ - State aid continues to climb for the School District of the Chathams and health care costs did not go up at all, highlighting the positive news in the open public finance meeting on the budget presented by superintendent Michael LaSusa on Monday night.
LaSusa noted that Chatham is receiving $309,000 more in state aid than last year and that legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy over the summer will continue to increase aid for Chatham in the near future. Despite the increase, Chatham is still only receiving 59 percent of the state aid it is entitled to (see video below) under the funding formula.
According to LaSusa, Chatham is among the majority of state districts receiving increased aid. About one-third has received a reduction in state aid.
LaSusa also said that "student enrollment has plateaued after hitting its peak in 2016 and 2017 and now is on a gradual decline."
Chatham will be limited to the hard two percent cap this year since the district did not receive any waivers to increase its budget above two percent. Waivers include an increase in enrollment, health care costs and pensions. Last year, Chatham's budget increase was 3.48 percent.
The budget is being sent to the state on March 20 and a public hearing is set for April 29.
The switch in health insurance to State Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) led to a zero percent increase in the proposed budget.
The finance committee has suggested that the increase in state aid be put toward the hiring of a psychologist for the middle school ($90,000), the hiring of an ASL teacher ($90,000), Spanish and Chinese staffing ($100,000), an increase in the sailing team budget for the year of $15,000 (yearly stipend $30,000) and the first-time funding for the varsity paddle team of $15,000.
The board would like to find room in the budget to hire a second full-time athletic trainer. Board member Michelle Clark was one of the proponents of the move (see video below).
One way to add an athletic trainer would be to put a referendum up for a vote in November. Board member Lata Kenney said that the public might not have the appetite for such a vote since the work on the capital improvement referendum, such as the renovation of the Chatham Middle School Auditorium, has yet to be completed.
Chatham Borough resident Bill Heap offers his opinion on the budget during public commentary, comparing CHS students with Jericho High in New York, where $38,000 is spent per student