MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Township Board of Education unveiled the detailed 2017-2018 school year budget at the regular meeting Monday evening. Superintendent Dr. Christine Burton and Business Administrator Cheryl Schneider ran through the details and highlights of the budget in advance of forwarding it to the county. Public meetings are slated for April in preparation for the final submission to the state.
The 2017-2018 budget saw a total revenue increase of $2,223,857. The finalized state aid number came in at no change at $2,541,217 as anticipated. A substantial bump in revenue came from a $695,982 health insurance waiver the district utilized. The per household tax impact is estimated at $315 which is lower than projected during the referendum since households won't feel the full tax impact for a few more years.
The Millburn school district anticipated a shortfall of $465,000 to presenting a balanced budget but cutting back on some of the planned projects helped bridge the gap. In the technology category, the Chromebooks rollout will not be district wide but will start at the 5th, 6th and 9th-grade levels. The planned middle school wireless upgrade is shelved for the coming school year but is slated for the 2018 budget year. The slower rollout of the Chromebooks alleviated the urgency to push forward with the wireless upgrade.
The majority of the budget expenditures are fixed costs, earmarked for educational expenses, salaries and benefits. Benefits jumped from 16% to 19% this year. Only 8% of the budget is non-fixed, discretionary funding where the efficiencies and cuts were made to balance the budget.
Many engineering costs were also trimmed since many of the services are rolled into the referendum budget and therefore were drawn down in the operating budget for 2017. Lower enrollment in kindergarten numbers, streamlining transportation and aligning the elementary schedules also created opportunities for cost savings.
Administration restructuring with the departure of Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michael Ryan opened the door for the district to reassess their needs and proposed reintroducing a supervisory level back into the schools. Dr. Burton explained that the administration needs "to be able to see on a much more regular basis, there needs to be a supervisory level that will give them much more purvey into the buildings on a much more regular basis." The proposed supervisors would report to current Assistant Superintendent Kyle Arlington.
The presentation prompted questions from the board and the public. Board member Regina Truitt sought clarification on the addition of two FTE's (full-time employees) and the budget impact. Dr. Burton noted that with Dr. Ryan leaving the district, that his salary would be utilized toward the anticipated cost of adding a supervisory layer. Truitt requested an updated organization chart to get a better understanding of "who's on first" and to ensure no redundancies exist. Dr. Burton anticipated having that available before for the completed budget goes to the state.
Two resolutions followed the budget presentation, the first to approve the submittal to the Essex County Office of the Department of Education that is due by Monday, March 20. The second authorized the transfer of unexpended bond funds from 2006 to the debt service fund for the repayment of bond principal (tax relief). Both measured passed unanimously with only board member Mr. Richard Gray absent from the proceedings.
Board President Emily Jaffe congratulated Dr. Burton and Ms. Schneider on their hard work."I want to commend you on this process. We have a new business administrator and coming in right around the time of the referendum vote and getting the budget pulled together while adding on another building and getting it to balance without incremental tax above the 2% cap; I think is a huge triumph for us as a district."