PLAINFIELD, NJ — Interim School Business Administrator Gary Ottmann, whose three-month contract was approved at a special meeting on July 6, presented 2020-2021 budget reconciliation findings at the Plainfield Board of Ed's meeting Tuesday. He said the administration has been working diligently over the past few weeks to modify and refine the previous budget plan to address the challenge the district is now facing due to a $12.6 million reduction in state aid.

Ottmann stated the administration listened to concerns of the board, adding, "as we go through the proposed modifications, I think that you'll see that many of those concerns have been addressed." He said the solution to the challenge is to reduce expenditures, increase revenues, or a combination of the two.

There are three possible areas of revenue increases that would generate an additional $1.85 million in the fiscal 2021 school year, Ottmann noted:

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  • The Maschio's food services program generates a profit each year, according to Ottmann, who said the program has generated an extra $360K that will enable the district to charge off a portion of the Barlow cafeteria addition to the food services fund;
  • On June 30, the district learned it will receive $620K in e-rate funds through a Federal grant that generates money from surcharges on cell phone bills;
  • The district will receive $870K in Extraordinary Aid, which is available to all districts in New Jersey that applied for reimbursement for a portion of their special education class that exceeds $40K per child in district, or $55K for those in a private school.

Expenditure reductions of $10,762,339 include:

  • Charter school payments — According to Ottmann, each time a district receives additional state aid, it triggers an increase in per pupil allocations at charter schools within the district. The New Jersey Department of Education notified the district last week that due to the state aid reduction, Plainfield's required charter school payments would be reduced by almost $2.4 million, representing approximately a 57% decrease from what was originally in the budget;
  • Health benefits — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of elective surgeries and doctor visits, health claims have decreased; thus, anticipated health costs for FY 2021 could be reduced almost 40 percent, or over $2 million;
  • Salary increases for all staff have been reduced by $1.9 million;
  • The plan is to return 14 RTI teachers to classroom instruction, saving $1.05 million;
  • Capital projects were originally budgeted at $2.8 million, but would be reduced by $1 million, still allowing for new boilers, and upgrades at secondary schools;
  • Central office and administrator reductions, a savings of $620K;
  • Custodial staff reductions of $500K, an item that generated discussion among board members who insisted these positions are even more important as schools open up;
  • Secretarial staff reductions of $240K;
  • An 8% reduction, or $197,485, in supplies district-wide;
  • Travel would be reduced by $100K;
  • Two positions in Information Technology, for a reduction of $220K;
  • Security reductions, with two retirements and other staff moved to part-time, for a total of $381K;
  • Two drop-out/In-school suspension staff reductions, a $177K reduction.  Some board members balked at these cuts, saying the positions were even more vital because virtual learning makes it even easier to skip classes and drop out. Job responsibilities could be passed on to guidance councilors, social workers, and behaviorists.

Ottmann said, "with this plan, we are able to return full-time attendance secretaries to all the elementary schools. It also provides for retaining the over 70 full-time assistants with their health benefits. So we've worked hard to come up with, I think, a plan that's responsible and addresses both the financial and the educational needs of the district."

See the budget findings herepdf.

Superintendent Dr. Diana Mitchell said they are looking forward to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's announcement the week of August 24 to find out what plans are in store for the district's budget.

The board will take action at its business meeting on Tuesday, July 28 at 8 p.m.

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