Education

Livingston Board of Education Approves $108.9 Million Tentative District Operating Budget For 2014-2015 Academic Year

March 25, 2014 at 11:57 AM

LIVINGSTON, NJ - The Livingston Board of Education approved a tentative district operating budget of $108,926,973 for the 2014-15 academic year, at a voting meeting on Monday night.

The budget prioritizes special education programs and staffing increases, while staying under the two percent state cap on annual budget increases. It will now be submitted to the Executive County Superintendent of Schools for further examination. Final budget approval will commence on April 28. Livingston residents can raise objections, concerns or questions up to that time, according to district Business Administrator Steven Robinson.

[A full breakdown of the budget is available on the district’s website].

Sign Up for E-News

While the Board unanimously approved the measure, board member Arthur Altman took care to note that his affirmative vote was “tentative.”

“I’m aware that Dr. [John] Alfieri and Steve spent months and months working on this budget and I appreciate that,” he said. “I just want to make sure everything is thoroughly vetted and justified.”

Altman requested an explanation of how the budget is constructed, specifically, what type of accounting was used to arrive at the final number.

Robinson explained that the district uses a hybrid style of budgeting that incorporates both historical budgeting and zero-based budgeting. Historical budgeting uses past financial statements as a baseline measure, and incorporates new costs as needed; zero-based budgeting operates under the assumption that the value of the budget is zero and all costs must be justified starting from that baseline.

Historical budgeting comes into play when measuring the spending per pupil. That allotment is based on past spending and is adjusted for population and demographic changes. Zero-based budgeting is primarily used when examining potential new programs to be added. Existing programs must also be examined and their costs justified, according to Robinson.

“In October, I started talking with principals, teachers and department heads,” Robinson said. “We talked about what they needed and what programs we should prioritize.”

To that end, zero-based budgeting was the primary method used, according to Alfieri. He explained that he made assessing instructional and programming necessity the top priority for this first budget.

“When a superintendent has been in the same place for five years, they often approach the budget by examining something new or controversial,” he said. “But because this is my first budget, I wanted to assess the value of all our programs and everything we do.”

Citing concerns over a tax increase, Altman asked if every line-item in the budget was justified. “We’re spending $2 million more than last year’s budget. My feeling is you should not go to the taxpayer unless absolutely necessary.”

“I didn’t go pencil-by-pencil, but I know the numbers by heart, line-by-line. I think about them in my sleep,” Robinson said.

“Could we lower the budget?” he asked. “Absolutely. But what’s the point of delaying things? If you delay capital projects that’s just going to bite you down the road. We could delay the purchase of math textbooks for sixth through eighth grade, but we feel we need them now. You weigh these things, and prioritize, and say ‘this is what we want to do now.’”

Robinson also noted that the original incarnation of the budget was $1.6 million over the state cap. The budget presented to the Board was under cap with no program cuts.

“We’re very fortunate.” Robinson said. “Other school districts had to make major sacrifices to get under the cap.”

Altman also requested a side-by-side comparison with Livingston’s peer districts of each line-item in the budget.

“There might be some areas where we’re higher or lower or somewhere in the middle [in spending],” Altman said. “I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request to know why we’re higher or lower in some areas.”

Comparing budgets between school districts is rarely an apples-to-apples comparison, according to Robinson. Districts often have different bookkeeping methods and designations. As an example, he cited the position of Athletic Director (AD). Livingston counts its AD as a school administrator, while other districts might budget the same position under the broader spectrum of the athletic department.

“One thing I will never do is gimmick accounting,” Robinson said. “Some districts will introduce an artificially low budget with a zero or negative tax increase one year and then try to make that up. Usually they end having to cut programs. Neighboring districts have been hurt by it.”

Board President Barry Funt also pointed out that peer districts might have disparate budgets simply because they have different priorities.

“Some districts might have to make up for capital funding because they didn’t plan ahead like we did,” Funt said. “In terms of per-pupil spending, we’re extraordinarily competitive with our peer districts.”

Funt also affirmed his trust in Alfieri and Robinson’s budgeting priorities.

Board member Leslie Winograd agreed with Funt, saying “If someone has an objection to a specific item in the budget, we should definitely examine it. But to make [Robinson] go through it line-by-line and then have to call other districts to learn how they designate their budget is a waste.”

During the session’s public comment, resident Ronnie Spring expressed gratitude to Alfieri, Robinson and the Board for the budget.

“Livingston has intangibles that you can’t necessarily compare to other districts,” he said. “This budget is really about the kids. If you go comparing it to other districts looking for things to cut, it becomes less about the kids and more about money.”

Another Livingston resident urged the Board to consider using the district’s bank cap allocation to further address the need for increased staffing at Livingston High School. The bank cap is comprised of state funds that were saved as a result of staying under the state cap in 2011; it is in excess of $400,000.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Livingston

Chris Brown Named President at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties is proud to announce the appointment of Chris Brown to President of the 21-office real estate brokerage headquartered in Somerset, New Jersey. Previously serving as Executive Vice President and General Sales Manager, Brown is a member of the company’s ownership team along with Bill Keleher, Seymour and Nancy Litwin, and Steve Janett.

Montclair First Responders Rush to Rescue Man Under Fallen Oil Tank

December 4, 2016

MONTCLAIR, NJ – Members of the Montclair Fire Department spent nearly two hours on Saturday afternoon rescuing a man who was trapped under an oil tank in a trench at 26 Linden Avenue.

According to published reports, Montclair Fire Department officials arrived after being alerted by witnesses to find the man in a trench filled with dirt and under the tank up to his ...

Randolph's Brendan Fletcher Reaches Top 8 on NBC’s “The Voice”

December 4, 2016

LOS ANGELES, CA - “And though the course may change sometimes, rivers always reach the sea,” Led Zepplin, Ten Years Gone

After years of changing his course, living in New Jersey, Boston, Brooklyn, and Charleston, all while singing in small local bars, at open mic nights, and working as a bartender to make ends meet, Randolph’s Brendan Fletcher always ...

Don't Sacrifice the Environment to Fund the State Treasury

November 23, 2016

Dear Editor:

New Jersey’s Natural Resource Damages (NRD) program is an incredibly important and necessary program rising from the state’s history of incremental spills and discharges, as well as historic industrialization. 

NRD requires polluters to go beyond the mandated cleanup and to pay damages for restoration and compensation for the public loss of use of natural ...

Friends of the Livingston Library Restocks Its Ongoing Book Sale for December

December 1, 2016

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Friends of the Livingston Library has fully restocked its Ongoing Book Sale for the month of December. On a monthly basis, Friends takes down all stock and replaces it with entirely new inventory. 

This is the “Friends flip.” Approximately 1200 items of fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, DVDs, and CDs are available at great ...

Andy’s Family Music Showcases Alex Weiss on Drums

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Andy’s Family Music Center of Livingston is proud to highlight 11-year-old Alex Weiss, a fifth grader at Collins Elementary School with an aptitude for drums.

Alex studies drums at Andy’s under the instruction of Joe Vitello. He says hid favorite band is Fall Out Boy and that his dad is his number one musical influence.

Check him out in the video ...

Q&A With Owners of Meadowbrook Country Day Camp

Recently, the owners of Meadowbrook Country Day Camp, Dan Milman and George Stein, took part in a fun Question and Answer session. Below are the questions and their responses. To learn more about Milman, Stein and Meadowbrook, click here to read a recent article that ran on TApinto.net.

 

WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD CAMP, WHAT VISUAL COMES TO MIND?

George: A six lb.

Getting a Handle on Thanksgiving

This year, on our National Day of Thanks, I would like to express my gratitude for having hands.

We typically don’t thank our body parts because they seldom leave us.  Most of us have not experienced unfortunate accidents or suffered the horrible consequences of war; tragic events  which might cause us to lose a limb.  

Most of us take our fingers and hands and elbows ...

Beckerman’s Theory of Everything

Any armchair theoretical physicist knows that Stephen Hawking has pursued a lifelong quest to come up with a Theory of Everything. This all-encompassing theory would tie together general relativity (large scale and high mass galaxies, stars, etc), quantum theory (quantum mechanics, quarks, atoms, subatomic particles), and Newtonian physics (gravity on small bodies, gas laws, electromagnetism) to ...