Madison School Board Gears Up for Preliminary Budget Talks

Board members and staff review agenda. From left, Kevin Blair, Lisa Ellis, Gary Lane, David Arthur and Tom Haralampoudis. Credits: Liz Keill

MADISON, NJ – Although the Madison School District budget for 2014-2015 is expected to maintain the status quo in terms of programs, Business Administrator Gary Lane said there would still be a 3.1 percent increase. “We don’t know what impact that will have on the taxpayer,” he said, but estimated that property owners could see a 2 to 3 percent increase in school taxes. “With the recent re-assessment, it could be less,” he said.

Lane explained that the banked cap would be applied to add programs. He said the cap changes every year and the district has not always used it in the past. There is currently about $900,000, with a proposal to use $378,000 The cap is re-calculated every three years and, he said, if it isn’t used, the district loses it. “Revenues are not going up,” he said, and the return from the state is minimal. Lane also noted that the budget process is more restricted than in the past because of state mandates, with a 2 percent cap on spending

Board President Lisa Ellis said more information would be available at the April 8 Board of Education meeting. Budget information is also available on the district’s website.  A final vote on the budget is s scheduled for the April 29 meeting.

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The board discussed ways to encourage parent involvement in the budget process and urged more public interaction. Board member Shade Grahling said the curriculum committee makes presentations throughout the year regarding proposed curriculum changes and introduction of new programs.

In other matters, the board fielded questions on the calendar change to make up snow days. The initial plan to hold a Saturday class on March 29 was rejected. Instead, school will be open on the dates designated on the website calendar.

A safety issue also came up. One parent said she represented a number of families in the neighborhood who could not attend the meeting. They were concerned, she said, about the drop-off location for Madison Junior School students. “It’s aggravating, stressful and dangerous for the children,” she said. She said there was no police presence or crossing guards and that traffic is coming from all directions near Stop & Shop.

Ellis said the crossing guards often take one student across a street at a time, rather than waiting for eight to 10 students, which means traffic is continually slowing down and backing up. She has been meeting with borough engineer Bob Vogel and with a borough committee to study the matter.

“We do car pool,” the parent said and offered to be part of the solution.


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