Millburn School Board Presented with $1.2 Million in Possible Budget Cuts

Millburn school business administrator Steven DiGeronimo and board of education members review preliminary 2015-2016 budget figures. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
Looking over budget proposals are assistant superintendent of schools Christine Burton, superintendent of schools James Crisfield and board of education president John Westfall-Kwong. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

MILLBURN, NJ - In order to make up for a potential $2,019,432 shortfall in revenue versus expenses in its proposed 2015-2016 school budget, the Millburn Board of Education was presented Monday night with a list of six items that would remove $1,204,972 from the proposed spending plan.

According to the proposal, presented by Superintendent of Schools James Crisfield on Monday, the district would:

  • Not hire an additional teaching team at the middle school, retaining the current 11 teams, and saving $480,000;
  • Convert $55,000 originally allocated for Chromebooks to professional development accounts, saving $55,000;
  • Cut $45,900, the entire proposed budget item for purchase of new peripherals such as smart boards and iPads;
  • Postpone the replacement of technology edge switches at the high school to save $174,072;
  • Make more aggressive assumptions on health benefits, such as assuming more employees would decline coverage or employees would pay contributions at greater levels than currently projected, saving $50,000; and 
  • Cut out $400,000 in the highest priority capital projects in the district, such as replacement of the roof on the Education Center.

Crisfield, noting that the board Finance Committee still had not announced revenue-enhancement measures, said the capital outlay proposal probably was not realistic at this point.

Sign Up for E-News

The board also has not yet received projected state aid figures, currently projected as “flat,” which probably will be released by the end of this month, and it must submit budget figures to the Essex County executive superintendent of schools by March 9, according to the state school board election calendar.

Board Finance Chairwoman Emily Jaffe said the school body anticipates it will introduce its preliminary budget in mid-March.

The total draft budget for 2015-2016, as of now, includes expenditures of $83,896,093. That total does not include the proposed cuts listed above. Even with those cuts, Jaffe noted, the proposed spending plan still would fall short by more than $800,000.

She said the administration had told the committee that any further cuts beyond the figures proposed above probably would result in personnel reductions and impinge on the district’s programs.

However, Jaffe said the district, under the state cap law, could ask for a waiver for any health care costs which exceed a 2 percent increase, and this waiver could bring in an additional $250,000, while use of $1 million in tax revenue from its unused levy balance also could help close the gap. This $1 million will lapse if it is not used in this budget cycle, she said.

According to the first draft of the district’s consolidated report on the budget, the draft would result in a $177 increase in property taxes on a home assessed at $1,000,000.

The proposed elimination of one proposed teaching team in the middle school met with resistance from parents in the audience.

Melissa Cifu said she had heard rumors that, if the middle school teaching teams are not increased to 12, four teams would serve students in the sixth and eighth grades and the seventh grade would be served by only three teams. Currently, there are four teaching teams in the sixth and seventh grades and three teams in the eighth grade.

Cifu said this would mean that current sixth graders, who would be moving into the seventh grade next year, may not get the instructional help they would need in a crucial time in their education where they needed more personal support. She said eighth graders, who were preparing for high school, probably could handle the greater independence by having one less teaching team.

Crisfield indicated the projected enrollment is 395 students in the incoming sixth grade, 355 in the incoming seventh grade and 398 in the eighth grade.

Cifu said that, when the district took away the additional team in the eighth grade, parents accepted that the move was valid at that grade level and wanted to know if school officials felt that argument was no longer valid.

The superintendent replied that the concept was that the fourth team would follow the relatively large class.

Board program chairwoman Regina Truitt said there were educational reasons for maintaining class size guidelines and the number of teaching teams possibly would differ from year to year.

She said unless someone could come up with an extra $500,000 each year it would be difficult to maintain 12 teams each year.

Board member Eric Siegel replied, however, that the district should study the entire team teaching concept more closely and perhaps “rethink the entire team teaching concept.”

He added that the district should be educating children at the level at which they expected to be educated and, perhaps, in line with that, consider a return to multi-age classes.

Truitt, however, said she had read a number of studies which showed the overwhelmingly positive benefits of team teaching.

Board president John Westfall-Kwong indicated that the program committee would again review the data and the numbers and publish a more definitive answer to the questions raised “in writing”—probably referring to its publication on the district’s website.

On another budgetary matter, district technology director Rob Winston presented his proposed budget, which amounts to a $312,321 or a 17.1 percent increase over the current year’s plan.

His requests include $70,000 for the first payment in the fourth year of a leasing program with Apple and $110,000 for the Chromebooks middle school 1:1 program mentioned above.

On the edge switch replacement program, he noted that it was thought the switches would last five years, but environmental conditions, such as heat in the closets in which they were kept reaching 90 rather than 70 degrees had shortened their expected lifespans. He said the district was converting more of its equipment to wireless, thus cutting down the number of wires used by equipment and thus the amount of heat generated. 

Winston added, however, even with this and even if the district were to rely more heavily on the cloud, there still would be a continued need for the switches.

Subcategories of the budget include $465,555 for infrastructure, including network services, data center equipment (servers) and telephone systems; $204,000 for internet services and WAN connections in all buildings; $327,365 for operational services such as data center operations, staff development and training and summer staffing; administrative support; $772,972 for instructional technology and $355,635 for instructional systems support.

In other action at Monday’s meeting, the board approved a contract for $8,900, plus advertising and printing services, with the search firm of R-Pat Solutions to find a replacement for Crisfield, who will be leaving the district on March 1.

Board members also approved an initial contract for Kyriake Emmanouilidis as curriculum and instruction coordinator for $76,550 from February 2 to June 30 of this year.









TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Millburn/Short Hills

Millburn Recreation Accepting Memberships for Pool, Tennis and Golf

February 19, 2018

MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Township Recreation Department announced that it is accepting memberships for the township pool, tennis and golf facilities. The memberships are available to all Millburn Township residents and the applications are available online.

The membership application can be accessed at or go ...

Millburn Police Department Investigating Pair of Residential Burglaries

April 3, 2018

On March 28, 2018 Millburn Police Officer Goldfarb responded to the Union Police Department on a warrant arrest. Robert Kopik, age 41 of Springfield, was placed under arrest on an outstanding criminal warrant and remanded to the Essex County Correctional Facility.

On March 28, 2018 Millburn Police Officer Hunt responded to a Quaker Road residence on a residential burglary. The resident reports ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 14

On this week’s AtlantiCast, an internationally recognized orthopedic oncologist takes a leadership role at Atlantic Health System, see the newest weapon in the fight against HPV-related cancers, Atlantic Health System leads the Castle Connolly / Inside Jersey Rankings, and much more!


Letter to the Editor: New Jersey’s Out-of-Network Bill is a Huge Blow to the Middle-Class

April 8, 2018

As Trenton currently looks to balance the budget, once again it’s our state’s hardest working citizens who will be left holding the bag. This time, though, it will be the hardworking office and ancillary staff from our small business private medical practices.  A bill called “The Out-of-Network Consumer Protection Bill” A-2039/S-485 looks poised to make ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, April 21, 12:00 PM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

Millburn Library Annual Book Sale


Tue, April 24, 6:00 PM

The Venetian , Garfield

Prepared. For Life Dinner with Captain Mark Kelly



Wed, April 25, 2:00 PM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

Pierre-August Renoir: The Joys of Life at ...


Wed, April 25, 2:00 PM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

Pierre-August Renoir: The Joys of Life

Arts & Entertainment

6th Annual Short Hills House Tour to Benefit Millburn Township Public School Special Services & Promote Autism Awareness

April 18, 2018

6th Annual Short Hills House Tour to Benefit Millburn Township Public School Special Services & Promote Autism Awareness
Preview Party: 5/3, 6pm - 8pm
House Tour: 5/5, 1pm - 4pm

Autism affects 1 in 41 children in New Jersey.

The 6th Annual Short Hills House Tour to Benefit Millburn Township Public School Special Services & Promote Autism Awareness will take place on May 5, 2016 ...

Millburn Firefighters Host Cook-off for Brain Injury

Millburn Firefighters Host Cook-off for Brain Injury 

The Millburn Police Department accepted the challenge made by the Millburn Fire Department to cook the ultimate slider in a Cook-off to raise funds for Opportunity Project, a local non-profit that assists individuals recovering from brain injury. 

 Firefighter Dave Hammond, who has taken home the prize in various cooking ...

Corey Biller to Run for Millburn-Short Hills Township Committee

Corey Biller to Run for Millburn-Short Hills Township Committee

Longtime Millburn Resident Enters Democratic Primary

(Millburn, NJ) Corey Biller announced the official launch of his campaign seeking the nomination to be the Democratic candidate for the Millburn-Short Hills Township Committee in November’s general election. The primary election to determine the ...