LIVINGSTON, NJ - On Monday night, the Livingston Board of Education discussed the first draft of the budget at its board meeting.
Overall, revenues are sufficient as predicted and the key to fiscal health is extraordinary state aid. Areas in the budget that will exceed forecasts are subscription bussing fees, rental income and extraordinary aid. However, they will fall short because interest rates and tuition revenue will be low as there are very few tuition students attending the schools.
Superintendent Dr. Brad Draeger said the district believes they will be able to generate enough surplus this year to allow them to appropriate the same amount of fund balance in the 2013-2014 budget. Also, it is assumed that state aid in 2013/2014 should be the same and the will budget the same.
The district will find out how much state aid they will receive at the end of February, but the problem is that leaves them very little time to do the budget because it is due by March 4. Therefore, the board is asking for an extension on the budget. Draeger said they are assuming the state aid will be flat funding and they were already told grant allocations from the federal level will be reduced by 25 percent. Most importantly, even with all of the changes, the district will stay under the two percent cap.
“With all of the talk at the federal level, nobody is surprised,” Draeger said.
They also hope to make improvements to the curriculum, staffing and special education. There are 130 special needs students outside of the district and in the future, Draeger said he plans to decrease that amount.
“It’s not so much as bringing the outside ones back, it’s any new kids identified need to stay in house,” he said.
Draeger also said Livingston is going to make the administration building ADA compliant, implement security upgrades at the schools including making all doors lock from the inside, continued removing asbestos tile from classrooms and install additional cabinetry in classrooms as well.
In other business, the board presented proclamations to the Geography Bee finalists from Mount Pleasant Middle School and Femgineers from Heritage Middle School, which is a female engineering club that competed in the New Jersey Future City Design Challenge and several students won in the competition.
The board also discussed the English as a Second Language program and the shared services between the high school and the local cable television station. Although all ESL students are required to join the general education population after four years of ESL, the board found there are an increasing number of students who are still a year or two behind their classmates. Acquiring a second language is difficult and for 25 percent of the kids in Livingston English is not the main language at home.
The board proposed to train teachers on how to facilitate children who come from ESL to the general education population beginning next year.
“We were staffing as if we were five years ago when we only had 58 students,” he said. “We have 83. We need more staff.”
The Livingston television station and the high school students work together on many broadcasts and share services. The town also has a Livingston Public Broadcasting Executive Board, which consists of seven members; three appointed by the council, three by the board and one by the township manager. Draeger said they haven’t been assigning people recently so starting in January they will.
“I just think you’re going to see the sharing of services in the town grow,” Draeger said.