MONTCLAIR, NJ – A tentative budget of $129,999,204 for the 2019-2020 school year was adopted during a special public meeting hosted by Montclair Board of Education on Monday evening at the George Inness Annex Atrium on Park Street.
Presiding over the meeting were Superintendent Kendra Johnson, Board President Laura Hertzog, Vice President Joseph Kavesh, Business Administrator and Board Secretary Emidio D’Andrea, Jessica de Koninck, Latifah Jannah, Eve Robinson, Priscilla Church and Anne Mernin.
The preliminary budget was originally introduced at a meeting on February 19 when D’Andrea presented a high-level overview.
More than 92.55% of board revenues, equating to $118,260,105, come from taxes, and taxes can only go up 2% on a yearly basis. Therefore, the board was $2,227,541 over budget with their preliminary estimate.
At Monday’s meeting, the state aide allocation amount was revealed.
“We have received an additional $177,106 per our state aide allocation, and although we are not quite at the amount we should be receiving, we are very grateful that we did not receive flat funding,” Johnson said.
Even with the state aide, the board is still $2,050,435 over budget with the tentative estimate.
Johnson spoke about the realities of the shortfall, as well as tough decisions made to help balance the budget including a reduction of paraprofessionals.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Montclair Education Association President and Vice President both voiced concerns about impending budget cuts.
“The only thing I can ask this board is to please learn from our mistakes,” MEA President Petal Robinson. “If you check our track record of the MEA coming to the board meetings, you would see that we never presented information that was false. I know we sent you a giant packet of questions, but I implore this board that it would be terrible and irresponsible to pass a budget that doesn’t answer every single one of our questions.”
“The MEA sent our concerns via email to the Board of Education,” said MEA Vice President Tom Manos. “The budget calls for cutting paraprofessionals and it’s a concern because we see this where they are let go now then brought back in the fall and we just don’t want to be shortsighted when we’re dealing with these people’s lives and their livelihoods.”
In response to the public comments, Superintendent Johnson said, “there was initially a request to reduce ten FTE’s and that has been reduced to six FTE’s, so we did put back four FTE’s into the budget. Furthermore, we would also be very interested in responding to our MEA colleagues and we will do so, we need to be thoughtful and we will make sure that we provide that information.”
The final budget is set to be approved at the next Montclair Board of Education public meeting on Monday, March 18 in the George Inness Annex Atrium. The meeting begins at 5:30 pm and immediately goes into closed session until approximately 7:30 pm when it re-opens to the public.
“Once the board adopts the final budget, it then has to be advertised in the newspaper for the first public hearing of the Board of School Estimate is scheduled right now for March 25,” D’Andrea stated. “We then have two subsequent meetings on April 1 and April 4 with the BOSE, with April 4 being the final adoption.”
In the Superintendent’s Address, Johnson talked about items her March Newsletter that was distributed to parents and guardians.
“March is Wellness Month, and I invite all of our parents and legal guardians to partake in our events,” Johnson said. “We will be challenging ourselves internally and having some fun competition as we stay well and be well.”
Regarding the district dance program, Johnson stated, “we are working on policy and procedures to make sure that things are copasetic for our families and that we have a robust program.”