MONTCLAIR, NJ – After several months of tension and spirited debate between the Montclair Education Association and the Board of Education, the Montclair Board of School Estimate unanimously approved a $131,943,069 budget for the 2019-20 school year during a public meeting Thursday evening at the George Inness Atrium.
Leading the meeting were Mayor Robert Jackson, Schools Superintendent Kendra Johnson, Board of Education President Laura Hertzog, Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea, Board Member Jessica de Koninck, Councilman Rich McMahon and Councilman William Hurlock.
Total expenditures for 2019-20 include $128,198,769 from the general fund, and $3,744,300 from the special revenue fund.
Previously, the MEA and BOE were at odds over potential cuts and personel reduction in the tentative budget originally presented on February 19. The tentative budget was adopted during a special meeting on March 11.
Superintendent Johnson provided a high-level overview of the budget prior to the board vote that included good news as to the restoration of several positions originally on the chopping block.
“Initially, we came before this committee a few meetings ago requesting the following reductions – ten fill-time teachers, ten full-time 1:1 paraprofessionals, four part-time kindergarten paraprofessionals, one district coordinator, one district director position, one full-time secretary, and $200,000 was removed from the supply line,” Johnson said.
Johnson continued, “as the process continued, we were able to identify additional savings through our health benefits programming and we are now down to the following recommendations that are included in the budget before you – four full-time teachers based on our numbers with the understanding that if we get additional breakage we will come back to this reduction. Ten full-time 1:1 paraprofessionals – please be reminded that these are 1:1 paras and they will change per student’s IEP’s. We are still hiring paraprofessionals. It is our commitment, as we previously stated, to ensure that all current employees who are paraprofessionals will be placed in a position for the 2019-20 school year.”
Johnson added, “we have restored all four of our part-time kindergarten positions, we have restored our district director position, and we have restored $200,000 to the supply line.”
Anticipated revenues include $13,682,964. Monies from taxes include $118,260,105. More than 92.5% of board revenues come from taxes, and taxes are capped at a 2% annual increase.
“I want to thank the Board of School Estimate because we truly felt like you listened to us, reviewed the documents and we thank you for the opportunity for us to present you with ideas,” said MEA President Petal Robinson. “What we ask going forward from everyone is that when we view our budgets, we view them as moral documents and the budgets are judgments on what areas we deem to be important.”
“I want to thank the Board of School Estimate for truly listening to our concerns,” said MEA Vice President Tom Manos.
“I personally want to thank Dr. Johnson and Mr. D’Andrea and members of the board for this process, I appreciate all of your hard work,” said Mayor Jackson. “I also want to thank the MEA for its hard work and diligence in this process as they made a very valuable contribution. It’s great the way the administration and the MEA got together and talked and worked through the issues, including working toward restorative justice. I think that both parties demonstrated the kind of maturity and leadership that we need to move this district to the forefront. It’s a positive first step and I want to congratulate all the parties involved.”
“I just want to say thank you – each year we try to do better and better and we will continue in the future to do better,” said President Hertzog. “I know there is stress caused by this process, especially with the compacted schedule, but we appreciate the contribution from the MEA and their thoughts, perspective and help. We also appreciate the publics’ ideas because they do help us at the board level.”
Superintendent Johnson closed by stating there would be quarterly meetings held throughout the year with stakeholders to ensure more thoughtful budget planning on an annual basis.
The next Montclair Board of Education regular public meeting is Monday, April 15 in the George Inness 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.