Education

Montville Board of Education Presents Further Details of Proposed Budget

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Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar Credits: Melissa Benno
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District Administrator Jim Tevis Credits: Melissa Benno
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MONTVILLE, NJ – Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar revealed further details of administration’s proposed 2017-18 budget at the Feb. 21 Montville Township Board of Education meeting, with the caveat that programs and proposals would be revisited following the release of state aid figures on March 2.

Elementary Schools

Proposed budget additions include the hiring of two full-time Spanish teachers for the elementary schools, “addressing the findings of the world language task force,” according to Rovtar.

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Middle School

At the middle school, upgrading the video production equipment is part of Rovtar’s proposed budget because the Lazar News Network’s important role in the school, she said.

High School

Proposed new courses for the high school included upper-level courses in “advanced culture” for French, Italian and Spanish, which fulfill the school’s two year language requirement; advanced placement computer science principles, and principles of anatomy.

Special Services

Valley View Elementary School currently houses two sections of the district’s integrated pre-school class, and the district would like to introduce a third. Speech testing kits and other child study team materials are proposed in the budget.

Technology

The budget includes an initiative to purchase a Chromebook (mini computer) for each student at the high school to use.

“We feel this would greatly enhance the way we’re able to deliver the curriculum,” Rovtar said.

Smart board (electronic projection screens) replacement, the purchase of a generator for the Information Technology Services Department data center, and the hiring of a junior system administrator in order to provide adequate support for the devices that are being purchased.

Athletics

Rovtar would like to purchase pole vault mats, tennis court nets, and she would like to move forward on the weight room project discussed at the Dec. 20 board meeting. This would involve removing the wall between the spin room and the weight room, and installing rubberized flooring in the weight room.

Curriculum Development

Rovtar said the Department of Education requires the district to implement Next Generation Science Standards for grades K-5, so the purchase of textbooks and materials aligned to those standards are included in the budget.

Budget Constraints

District Administrator James Tevis explained that 76% of the budget is dictated by salary and health benefit costs, and that salaries increased by 2.4% on average for the ’17-’18 school year. Health benefit premiums are estimated to increase by six percent, he said. Therefore, new programs and the expansion of current programs are “severely restricted” by the two percent tax levy cap, he said. The budget was created assuming the same amount of aid as last year, and the expense budget will increase less than one percent.

Capital Facility/Maintenance Initiatives

Aside from the improvements that are part of the proposed referendum vote the district will be holding in September, the initiatives that will be part of the budget include reconfiguring the media center at Hilldale School in response to the demographic changes that have occurred in that area of town, and reconfiguring the drop-off area of the parking lot at William Mason School.

Tevis reiterated the three questions the board hopes to have passed in the Sept. 26 referendum vote for facility and maintenance initiatives, which are improvements to the schools including roof replacements, district-wide heating and cooling controls, restroom renovations, and media center renovations for the middle and elementary schools. He explained that if question number one does not pass, questions two and three, which pertain to gymnasium renovations and air conditioning additions automatically fail.

Tevis said administration is “on track” to submit the referendum to the Department of Education in mid-March,

“This will give us our approval from the DOE, and give us preliminary cost estimates for debt service aid,” Tevis said. “That’s a big reason for us to move forward with this referendum project, because of the significant potential for 40% debt service aid toward the cost of these projects. It’s a significant amount of money that’s on the table.”

Tevis said the preliminary figures will come 60 days after submission, with the final numbers coming in at the end of the approval process in the summer.

Board Member Karen Cortellino pointed out that the roof construction would be only portions of the roof at the high school, Lazar, and Mason schools. She further wanted to reassure residents that the projected increase in utility costs from having more air conditioning in the schools would only be $15,000, potentially offset by the HVAC controls proposed to be installed, according to figures Tevis had given the board. She also said that the proposed gymnasium renovations would be to multi-purpose rooms in the elementary schools because those schools use the rooms as lunchrooms and “auditoriums” in addition to gymnasiums.

Class Sizes

Rovtar said that the Demographic Study Task Force found that there was “no immediate impact on the ability to continue to offer comprehensive programs at the middle and high school levels,” but she said that it is possible that staff reductions will result from declining enrollment.

Snow Days

When asked about giving back any unused snow days as mentioned on the district calendar, Rovtar said she would review the calendar in mid to late March because Montville Township has had snow storms in April in the past.

The district calendar states that “if fewer than four emergency days are used, school will be closed on announced days with advanced notice to the community.” Only one snow day has been used by the district.

Next Meetings

The next meeting will be on March 7 at a delayed time of 8:00 p.m. at the Municipal Building because the board will be trained on “BoardDocs.”

The board will be having a meeting on March 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Lazar Middle School to present the tentative budget, but will not be having a meeting on March 21.

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