LIVINGSTON, NJ — In addition to providing an update on the current status of remote learning within the Livingston Public Schools (LPS) district, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matthew Block also addressed the upcoming budget presentation and how the public can provide input or submit questions prior to the final vote.

After approving the tentative 2020-2021 school budget in March and submitting it to the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) announced earlier this week that the NJDOE has approved and returned the drafted budget with no changes.

Recognizing that the country is facing “a new economic reality,” Block said the Livingston district is “considering ways to defer less critical budget items or to fund them in alternative ways to reduce the total tax increase.”

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The tentative budget projects a tax increase of 2.1 percent (or $199) to the average home assessed at approximately $700,000.

During a virtual LBOE meeting on Monday, Business Administrator Steven Robinson remarked that although there has been no confirmation, there has been “chatter” among business administrators throughout the state that state-aid figures may not come to fruition as previously expected.

He noted that a backup plan is being formulated and that the district may “need to hold back on some things.” He reiterated, however, that the students and staff are the budgetary priorities and an option to delay some projects may be considered, as well as not going to CAP. 

Robinson reported that he will make recommendations to the board prior to the public forum, which will be held via Zoom on April 21 at 7 p.m. Directions for how to long on will be available on the district’s website for residents, who are encouraged to join the meeting.

The tentative budget can be found on the district’s website BY CLICKING HERE. Questions from the public can be sent in advance to BudgetQuestions@Livingston.org and will also be accepted during the meeting. 

Also during Monday’s meeting, Block expressed his appreciation toward the staff and families “who are making remote learning work” in Livingston.  

“Livingston exemplifies what is probably the best virtual remote learning,” said Block. “We are second to none.” 

Block noted that the focus within the district has been on keeping the students connected, stating that this is what is “most important at this time.”

The superintendent also discussed recent executive orders issued from the governor’s office and the NJDOE, stating that these are mostly internal and take some administrative tasks “out of the way so [the district] can focus on instruction.” 

Although the governor announced that schools will remain closed until at least May 15, Block said he is hopeful that the district “can get back to emotional well-being and have some closure to the school year” once it is deemed safe.

As the district waits for official direction from the state regarding a potential reopening date, the administration has been formulating contingency plans, particularly for the moving-up ceremonies, graduation and prom. Noting that it is “too early to determine what May and June will bring,” Block also stressed that decisions will be “thoughtful and deliberate” and made with “as much information as possible.”

In response to an inquiry from LBOE member Seth Cohen, Block stated that the district might need to consider expanding summer programs in the event that camps are closed in order to fill a void and provide structure for students.

Additionally, LBOE student representative Nirav Patel provided an update from the students’ perspective as it relates to long-distance learning and current circumstances.

Despite a few technological issues, Patel noted that the teachers are doing a “great job” and thanked the community at-large for staying positive. He also reported that student morale remains high and that Livingston High School Student Government Association is currently planning a school-wide “Tik-Tok Challenge” to support dance and fitness initiatives.

At the start of the meeting, LBOE President Ronnie Konner called for a moment of silence to honor, thank and remember all essential workers and others who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.