LITTLE FALLS, NJ - The Passaic Valley High School Board of Education adopted its tentative 2017-2018 school budget on March 16.

According to Colin Monahan, business administrator, the anticipated surplus is close to $1 million for the upcoming school year, which is lower than expected.

"We would have liked the surplus to be a little higher and we plan to work towards increasing that through a decrease in spending," Monahan said, adding that the preliminary budget was sent for the county's approval on March 17.

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The tentative operating budget stands at $29,922,708. Monahan added that the budget is within the state's cap for increases, with an approved healthcare adjustment.

Dr. Vincent Varcadipane, finance committee chair, said the high school needs to be more frugal when it comes to its expenditures.

"We went over the budget and the tax levy. It appears there is no wiggle room to generate a surplus," Varcadipane explained. "The way we can save money is if we don't spend a lot of money that's allocated in the budget. That's going to be up to the staff and the superintendent to decide how much of it we're going to spend."

The budget will not go before voters, per state legislation, which permits school districts to pass their budgets if the tax levy supporting a budget does not exceed a 2 percent cap annually, minus specific exemptions. Spending plans must be submitted to Passaic County for approval before board members can vote on it.

A public budget hearing and adoption is scheduled on April 15, where Monahan said a detailed slide presentation on the proposed budget will be given.

Monahan added that the high school is looking into the purchase of a third bus to offset transportation cots. A custodian who will be designated to drive that bus is in the middle of acquiring a commercial driver's license (CDL) license. That cost is already included in the budget for approval.

"Looking into getting a new bus will help us save money, around $60,000, which is a great savings," he said. "We have two licensed bus drivers right and we will soon have a third. The bus run should pay for itself after the first year and after that it should pay for the custodian we use."

In addition, the high school is also looking into purchasing a new vehicle with a plow, which is also budgeted for.

Track Upgrades

Board members also approved the Township of Little Falls submission of a Passaic County Open Space and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund grant plan for reconstruction of the high school's running track. The Township Council recently approved a resolution to apply for the grant money during its March 13 council meeting, and the approved resolution came after a prior public hearing was held.

The track, installed over a decade ago, is in need of upgrades due to wear and tear over the years. Planned renovations to the track entail cleaning, resurfacing and repairs.

"We anticipate the upgrades will cost roughly $200,000 but we're not sure of exact amount of the grant as of yet," said Monahan. "The track's condition needs to be addressed as soon as possible pending the open space grant. Due to the requirements of the grant, we have to partner with the township. We know the grant was submitted but now we have to wait."

Monahan added that there is no set date as to when the planned track renovation are set to begin.