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LIVINGSTON, NJ — In addition to updating the public on the newly obtained state aid numbers, the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) met Tuesday to discuss budgetary items as well as the projected tax impact of the tentative 2019-2020 school budget.
Steven Robinson, business administrator and board secretary for Livingston Public Schools (LPS), announced that state funding for LPS has increased by $475,247—indicating a $1.7 million increase from the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year until March of the 2018-2019 school year, according to Robinson.
Robinson reminded the public that although the first review of the budget was $1.6 million dollars over cap, the cap can now be readjusted based on various factors, including the increased general aid funding and the reduction of budget expenditures by rejecting budget requests.
“I’m going to make this clear: no programs have been cut and no existing staff members are going to be reduced by budget cuts,” said Robinson.
The night’s proceedings also marked the beginning of a budgetary review that included detailed discussions regarding curriculum, facilities and personnel.
Robinson presented the proposed school budget with a tax rate increase of $89 annually, or .96 percent, for the average home assessed at $600,000. As last year’s budget was adopted with a 1.76 percent increase, or $160 per household, Robinson indicated that this is the lowest tax increase that he can remember during his time at LPS.
Among some of the highlights of the budget discussion included capital expenditures and an explanation of how curriculum is created.
The process often includes the writing of the curriculum followed by a period where the school evaluates different textbooks that fit the curriculum. As part of the discussion, representatives from different textbook companies presented their cases to the district so that the board can narrow it down to the two best options.
During public comment, one parent expressed concern over the weight of his daughter’s book bag and asked whether online or digital textbooks can be considered as an option. Those leading the public through the curriculum discussion acknowledged that although online textbooks have certain appeal, some educators and parents still prefer to educate their students using physical books.
It was noted, however, that many of the books being utilized in Livingston schools include both a digital and hard copy component and are included together when selecting and purchasing a new textbook.
According to Monday’s presentation, capital expenditures for the 2019-2020 budget (proposed at a total of $1,110,500) include the following:
- Replacing Livingston High School (LHS) Shingle Roof
- Replacing gym floor in the LHS Fitness and Wellness Center
- Media Upgrades at Heritage Middle School, Burnet Hill and Mt. Pleasant
- Repaving of blacktop/walkways at multiple schools
- Air conditioning of small activity rooms at Mt. Pleasant Elementary and Riker Hill
In other news, LPS continues its superintendent search despite a recent set back in which the leading candidate dropped out of the running. According to LBOE President Charles "Buddy" August, the current salary cap on superintendents would have caused the candidate to take a $20,000 pay cut, which ultimately prevented LPS from making an appealing offer.
August explained that there is a bill currently pending in Trenton that would waive the salary cap when hiring superintendents was passed by the state senate, but is now stuck in assembly. He announced on Monday that district is sending a letter to the commissioner of education to ask whether the salary cap can be waved.
The next LBOE meeting will be held on March 18, where the board will discuss the technology portion of the proposed budget.
Return to TAPinto Livingston for more from Monday's meeting, where the LBOE honored the 2019 Teachers of the Year and Educational Professional of the Year.