SPARTA, NJ – It was standing-room only at the Sparta Board of Education meeting on Monday night. Approximately 200 students, parents, teachers and residents packed the auditorium of Mohawk Avenue School to listen and be heard about the 2016-2017 school budget. Most were there to voice support for the strings teacher at Helen Morgan school whose position is slated to be cut for next year.
Superintendent Dennis Tobin, Business Administrator Barbara Decker and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Daniel Johnson reviewed the budget presentation given at the February meeting.
The anticipated revenue is $61,892,603. Of that, 89 percent comes from local tax levy, 10 percent from state aid and one percent from Fund Balance, Decker said.
Tobin explained the goals for creating the budget were to “maintain all programming and maintain class size.” He said they had met those goals.
As reported last month, the first draft of the budget required eliminating nearly $1.8 million to meet expected revenue. At the heart of the cuts were staff reductions "across all areas," according to Tobin.
The staff reductions will include:
- two general education teachers and an Instructional Intervention teacher at Alpine school,
- two general education teachers at Helen Morgan,
- one guidance counselor and one media center specialist at Mohawk Avenue School,
- one music teacher and one physical education teacher “districtwide”
- a guidance counselor, social studies teacher, custodian and Mandarin Chinese teacher at Sparta High School
- half of a secretary position at the board of education offices
- two additional secretaries
- half of a custodian position
- a curriculum supervisor
Tobin explained the music teacher and physical education teacher are considered “district wide cuts because of their certification.”
Other cuts proposed:
- Eliminate/Delay 1:1 initiative at Sparta High School and Sparta Middle School
- Reduce overload stipends at Sparta High School and Sparta Middle School
- Decrease Athletics/Co-Curricular funds
- Reduce Special Education Purchased Professional Services
- Reduction in supplies at Sparta Middle School and Alpine
- Reduction in Unemployment Trust Transfer
Decker explained the township had recently done a reevaluation of property values that resulted in an increase in the average assessed home from $262,600 last year to $371,031 this year. The tax impact of the levy increase from the school budget is an increase of $174.26 per year or $14.52 per month per average home. That includes the general fund budget and debt service.
For two and a half hours people came to the microphone, primarily addressing the board about the proposed cuts. Many of the people in attendance were there to share concerns about the impact of cutting the strings teacher at Helen Morgan school, most of them were music students. Parents and board members alike commented on the students' behavior. They agreed the comments were respectful, passionate and well thought out. The students had prepared statements, which they delivered with poise and confidence one parent said.
A member of the public commented that “the students were impressive and made Sparta proud.”
Their message was clear; the board members needed to reconsider eliminating Chryselle Angderson’s position.
It was after 10 p.m. when the board went through the agenda, finally getting to the proposed budget. Tobin explained the board needed to approve a budget to submit to the Executive Superintendent Dr. Rosalie Lamonte by next Tuesday. If they decided not to approve the proposed budget they would have to hold a special meeting before Tuesday to approve a budget.
If they were not able to approve a budget by Tuesday, then Lamonte “would get control of the budget” and make the decisions for them.
Further, he explained, if they did approve the proposed budget that night they would still be able to change it. They could discuss possible amendments in their upcoming -committee meetings. Any changes would be reflected in the budget presented at the Budget Hearing meeting scheduled for April 25.
The public will still have the opportunity to comment on the budget prior to the board members' vote on the final budget to be submitted to the state.
The resolution was passed with seven members voting yes, Brenda Beebe was the only no vote.