MILLBURN, NJ - Amid the nor'easter, the Millburn Board of Education met on Monday evening to discuss the annual budget for the 2017-2018 school year, get an update on the referendum and field questions from the community during public comments.
Dr. Burton kicked off the meeting with a presentation on an overview of the budget planning process currently underway. "Our task is ultimately to present to the board and to the community is a balanced budget." The focus is on getting the Washington School renovated and ready for the students for September. She also reminded everyone that the referendum covered the purchase price of the building, renovations and one-time costs items including furniture and technology. The referendum did not fund personnel, transportation, maintenance, and utilities totaling over $960,000 that needs to be built into the new budget.
In her presentation, Dr. Burton touched upon key drivers in the budget planning and outlined the timetable for the ongoing budget process. Budget details are set to be presented at the February 2 meeting, and every subsequent meeting through March as the budget is refined, and efforts are made to close the $457,000 budget gap the Millburn BOE is facing. Projections on enrollment numbers also play a role in the budget planning with forecasting out to the 2020 school year under consideration along with the potential impact of the proposed 200 unit Mack-Cali development.
The presentation also highlighted how the schools are funded and the parameters the administration works within to meet the needs of the students, schools and educators. Ninety-four percent of the funding comes from the tax levy that is capped at 2%, whereas for every tax dollar 47% of that money goes to schools. Dr. Burton also noted that only 20% of the entire budget is discretionary. The other 80% is allocated to fixed costs at 64% for salaries and 16% for benefits.
The board committee on student wellness reported on their first meeting and laid out its plans for the upcoming meetings. Each meeting is projected to broaden the inclusion of more voices to help shape policy.
The January 25 meeting brought in religious leaders and healthcare professionals and a meeting slated for mid-February looks to include the community as a whole to help tackle student wellness.
Student stress was brought up during public discussion questioning if there was anything preventing high school principal Dr. Miron from acting on the problems of homework assigned after class and deficiencies in the expedient return of tests and papers. The board highlighted the actions Dr. Miron already took to stem the tide and ensure the enforcement of no homework assigned after the 4 pm. In meeting with staff, he also reinforced the assessment policy that tests, papers, and quizzes must be returned before another assignment of the same type is given thus allowing students the opportunity to learn from the previous assessment.
The Millburn School Board is holding its 10th Annual Open Forum, A Conversation with Dr. Burton and the Board, on Sunday, January 29 from 2-4 pm at the Millburn Public Library. Members of the community are invited to meet the new members of the Board of Education, and take advantage of this annual occasion to ask questions and get answers about the school budget, referendum projects, health and wellness initiatives, and other school issues. As this is not a formal business meeting, the forum allows for a more informal give and take between the Board and members of the public. This is a way to get to know members of the Board and the Administration and learn about issues that may not be discussed in depth at regular Board or PTO meetings. The relaxed setting will provide an opportunity for thoughtful dialogue on a variety of topics.