MADISON, NJ - At a joint Madison Board of Education and Borough Council meeting on Tuesday night at Madison High School, the Borough Council unanimously approved a $31,889,528 school budget for the upcoming school year.
After the school budget was defeated in April, further cuts were implemented including salary freezes as agreed to by all four school unions and moving the Board of Education offices to Hartley Dodge Memorial, to save the district $255,000, according to Madison Mayor Mary Anna-Holden. The reduction in taxes from the money cut from the school budget would save the average homeowner in Madison $59 in property tax increase on a home assessed at $411,000, according to Madison Buisiness Administrator Charles Milewski.
Mayor Holden also spoke of removing money budgeted for salary increases and instead spending that money on the Elementary School World Language Program, which would save the district $315,000. That program was originally planned to be removed before the budget was defeated. Holden continued, saying that there were also plans to expand shared services by moving Playwrights Theater and the Adult School from Green Village Road School (GVRS) to the lower level of the Civic Center, which would save $60,000.
"Moving these programs to the Civic Center will free up the GVRS to be sold and put back on the tax rolls while preserving valuable programs for both students and adult residents of Madison," Mayor Holden said.
Also being discussed is shifting the scheduling of all athletic fields to the High School Athletic Department. Holden explained that while this does not create any savings for the borough, it does preserve certain programs that could face elimination.
Council President Jeannie Tsukamoto spoke in favor of the proposed budget cuts before the Council voted on them. "I think that this proposal is a win-win for all. We get to maintain the quality of our excellent schools and lower the tax levy and therefore lower the tax increase for taxpayers," Tsukamoto said. "I think this is good...and we can all be really happy with it."
Board of Education President Lisa Ellis also thanked the council members for their diligence and support in working on the budget stating that everyone came together to help one another through the current crisis in Trenton. "The tone has been one of cooperation and respect and I look forward to working on building our relationship to find even better ways to serve this community as a whole," Ellis said.
She further mentioned that the district is on thin financial ice with the loss of its state aid and reserves within the school budget. With cuts to staff and programs, Madison schools' mission could be seriously undermined, Ellis said. She also said that in the future, it will be very difficult to create responsible budgets to serve the needs of students.
Ellis continued, stating that Governor Christie is overlooking a broken funding system in New Jersey public schools and that it is time for the borough to demand that the state help with the problem rather than continue to make it worse. She concluded, saying that Madison is a strong community that will recover from this financial burden and will face the issues that come along with it head on.