LIVINGSTON, NJ – Following three months of presentations on various aspects of the Livingston Public Schools’ (LPS) annual budget, the 2017-2018 budget was formally presented at Monday’s Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) public hearing meeting and the $119 million spending plan was officially approved.
With a careful eye trained on realizing cost savings that put taxpayers’ dollars to the most effective use, determinations on the budget allocations were driven by the dollars required to address needs in the areas of curriculum, special education, technology, staff development, athletics, facilities and school safety.
“There were budget goals which the board gave us,” said Steven Robinson, school business administrator and board secretary. “The first was to remain within the budget cap [allowable by state guidelines]. The second was to ensure that class sizes remain at the levels they’re at now, if not better. Lastly, we had the goal of trying to contain soft borders, wherever possible. I think our budget meets these goals.”
Remaining true to the LPS motto of “empowering all to learn, create, contribute and grow,” the budget ensures that funding will continue to support the instructional excellence that keeps the district’s schools on award-winning lists, which have recently included those as diverse as Top 100 Gold Medal U.S. High Schools (by U.S. News & World Report), Best Communities for Music Education in the U.S. (by The NAMM Foundation), Top 50 New Jersey Public Schools with Highest SAT Scores (by NJ Advance Media) and National Schools of Character (by Character.org, given to Hillside Elementary for excellence in the area of character education).
First and foremost, the budget supports a rich curriculum that goes beyond a concentration on English Language Arts, social studies, science, math, health and arts instruction to also incorporate the use of technology, exploratory techniques and research, critical thinking, independent learning and newly-emerging educational approaches such as the Next Generation Science Standards and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math).
The budget makes it possible for students of all stripes to achieve educational success, according to the board. For example, budgetary funding is provided for the district’s Summer Academy, which offers three levels of instruction: remedial classes for those students who have yet to earn credit for classes they’ve taken during the course of the regular school year, honors-inspired bridge courses for kids who wish to get a jump-start on math and science courses they willll be taking in the upcoming year, and enrichment courses for students looking to delve into areas of study that aren’t normally focused upon in the standard school curriculum.
Funding is also made available to bring the PRIDE program into the schools, and to deliver instruction on life skills as well as music, speech, occupational and physical therapy for special needs students.
According to the LBOE, nearly two-thirds of the budget will go toward instruction and support services.
Budgetary items that have been of particular focus for the 2017-18 year include the popular 1:1 computer initiative, launched last year, and the enhancement of the Foxcroft Drive parking lot near the administrative offices at Livingston High School (LHS).
Budget dollars assigned to the 1:1 initiative will go, in part, toward updating the slower, heavier Lenova computers Heritage Middle School students are currently using in favor of faster, lighter-weight HP x360 Convertible laptops, which students will be issued in the 2017-18 school year. Additionally, the budget accounts for continued training to build upon the program’s effectiveness.
The LBOE confirmed that the approval of the budget also signifies the approval of an allocation of dollars to be directed towards a redesign of the parking lot, a project that has been on the table for the past three years but that has yet to be brought to fruition.
The redesign will integrate the addition of a sidewalk, fencing and the planting of trees as well as handicap accessibility and noise-reduction measures to appease neighbors who have requested that certain modifications to the original plan be made. These requests will be further addressed at future LBOE meetings.
“The administration and the LBOE have worked very closely to try to present the best possible budget we can in the interest of the children,” said Board of Education President Ronnie Konner. “Livingston has an excellent school system and that’s because our community supports it. The board takes its lead from the community in presenting this type of a budget that will move the children and our district forward.”