NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Board of Education (BOE) approved the tentative budget for the 2017-2018 school year to be submitted to the Executive County Superintendent of Schools at its Thursday, March 16 meeting. The board also discussed implications of the so called RICE notice requirements.

Board Member Ira Krauss explained the budget process which started in November with all principals expressing the needs for each school. The Finance Committee then met several times to compile the budget proposal. Krauss emphasized that the budget is based on “what students need”, not on “what everybody wants.” The budget presentation and public hearing are scheduled to take place at the April 27 BOE meeting.

The total expenditures for the 2017-2018 school year are expected to be $37.6 million of which approximately $35.4 million will be raised by taxes. The district assumes that state aid will be similar to last year. The tax levy increase for an average home valued at $270,000 will be $82 or 1.05 percent. The figures include 4.7 new staff members to be added as well as the debt service cost for the referendum bonds. The district is also using some funds in the cap bank which would expire this year if not included in the budget.

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Board President Adam Smith explained that the board is now required to send the so called RICE notices to employees whenever their name is mentioned in the agenda. The RICE notice refers to the legal case of Regina Rice v. Union County Regional High School Board of Education. The case set the precedent to matters of discussing personnel in public meetings.

Although the Rice case involved employment matters the school districts are now required to notify employees in all subject matters, whether it involves terms and conditions of employment, disciplinary or health issues, evaluations, promotions or hiring. This means that each year when the list of employees renewing their contract is on the board’s agenda, each individual employee must receive a RICE letter. Smith speculated that this “bizarre” requirement “cannot last long in this format.”

In other news the board nominated a new ad hoc committee to deal with enrollment issues. The committee will look at the live birth records and evaluate the accuracy of enrollment projections. The committee will deliver its first report at the beginning of June. The report will provide the board with information to prepare for increasing student population or other potential enrollment changes. Superintendent Miceli noted that another three new students have entered the school system recently. He will have the updated enrollment numbers at the next board meeting on March 30.

The board also appointed Mary Amato to the position of Assistant to the School Business Administrator starting April 3, 2017. Amato has been employed by the district for 13 years and is currently in charge of the district payroll.