MILLBURN, NJ - Budget discussions continued for the 2016-17 school year at Monday’s Board of Education meeting as the administration closes in on a final draft of a balanced budget. Dr. Christine Burton presented a discussion on the budget that includes priorities in maintaining excellence in student achievement and staffing requirements.
“In terms of the budget priorities, the decisions center around what we must do to maintain the level of excellence that Millburn expects," Burton said.
Salaries make up the bulk of the projected budget, accounting for 64 percent of the estimated $89 million needed to maintain the quality of education within all township schools. Twenty-six percent of the estimated budget is allocated for contractual benefits and non-discretionary items such as transportation, utilities, buildings and grounds, which leaves 10 percent for discretionary items.
The road to a balanced budget may be within the discretionary items such as athletics, technology, school supplies and professional development. Scaling back on select engineering services, conferences and repurposing grant funds may achieve the financial balance the board desires while maintaining the essential educational needs of the district.
Moving beyond budget discussions, Finance Chair John Westfall-Kwong also noted that his committee has recommended the purchase of additional computers to be used at the high school and that these computers will also be configured for students desiring to take the Chinese AP exam. At the last BOE meeting a group of concerned residents requested the board take action to alleviate the problem associated with students on the wait list who were not yet approved to take the exam due to a lack of computers. All students on the waitlist were informed that they would now be participating in the May AP exam.
Board President Michael King updated the audience with regard to the board’s relationship with the Township Committee and how the leadership of both organizations would work together on issues that have “shared impact”, like the Mack-Cali development and Complete Streets.
“Our interest from a board perspective is always to do what’s in the best interests of the school district.” Said King.
He commented that he has already met with the Mayor’s office and that the BOE will have a liaison to the township’s planning board. He was enthusiastic and confident about the relationship and the shared responsibilities in addressing township issues of mutual concern.
Prior to the budget discussion, there were two presentations. The first was from Roy You, President of the Millburn/Short Hills Chinese Association. In honor of Chinese New Year he presented the board with a traditional folk dance performed by four township elementary students. Afterwards, members of the Association passed out traditional New Year treats to all board members.
Dr. William Miron, Principal of Millburn High School, then took the podium to present the annual AP qualifying process. He announced the creation of a AP website to help both students and parents navigate the requirements and qualifications of the AP exam. Flanked by two students from the Student Liaison Committee, Dr. Miron discussed the content of the site as well as the challenges and rigors of AP courses.