WAYNE, NJ – During the last Wayne Board of Education meeting, the 2020 – 2021 school year budget was passed with a total amount of $175,234,439, but both Superintendent Dr. Mark Toback and BOE President Cathy Kazan know they must be prepared for uncertainty.
\Although this amount is a 0.9% increase from last year’s budget, it will mean a 2% increase in the tax levy for the Township. According to Bill Moffitt, the BOE Business Administrator, the average Wayne homeowner will see a $134 annual increase in taxes.
Part of the revenues in the budget include a promised payment of $6.6M from the state of New Jersey in the form of aid.
The COVID-19 outbreak has stretched government budgets across the board. See story. This puts the $6.6M in promised state aid in jeopardy.
Toback does not feel this is a major concern for two reasons. First, the proposed $6.6M in state aid represents only 3.9% of the total expected revenue for the district. Second, he feels that it is very unlikely that the district would not receive any money from the state. If anything, it would be a reduction in the amount.
The Superintendent said that whatever the shortfall may be from the state, "this would not be passed on to the taxpayers."
The reduction would have to be made up in the budget elsewhere and the BOE is aware that they will need to make careful decisions as more information comes.
BOE President, Cathy Kazan said: “We won’t know until mid-August what the Governor will be doing with the state budget. There are a lot of unknowns, so we know that we will have to be careful.”
On May 20, the Wayne Town Council will be meeting and voting on the Township budget. Mayor Chris Vergano said that he will be asking the Council not to adopt the proposed budget, voicing his concerns about what he calls a dire situation. See Story
The BOE does not have that luxury.
“School districts have a budget process that is required, and the deadlines have not changed,” said Toback. “Therefore, the district has to submit a budget and we have a deadline when it must be submitted. There is no option for us not to adopt a budget.”
Kazan added that the budget is more of a guide, especially during uncertain times.
“Budgets are living documents,” she said. “This is obviously extreme circumstances, and there are a lot of unknowns. But passing the budget does not mean that ultimately, we are tied to the numbers.”
Wayne resident Mark Klipka called in and asked whether the district has laid-off any employees as a cost-cutting measure.
Toback explained that because the school were originally shut down for only two weeks, with an expectation that the schools would be reopened, no furloughs or layoffs occurred. The next phase was four weeks with the same expectations.
On top of this Murphy signed an executive order directing New Jersey school districts to continue to pay employees as if they were still working. This tied the district’s hands on the matter.
“So, at this point layoffs are not an option,” added Toback. “As time goes by, we will look at different options. At this point we don’t need to do that, but in the future, it may be necessary.”
There are cost savings that the district has realized during the time schools were closed. Fuel for busses, utility expenses and more. Moffitt explained that any realized savings would be used to offset unexpected costs due to the pandemic and any amounts unspent would be rolled over into the new budget.
Two other factors add to the uncertainty. A major reduction in tax revenue to the Township due to the fact that many residents are not working and may not be able to pay their tax bills and businesses closed down. On the flip side, federal funding could be coming to offset Wayne’s financial woes. See Story
Right now, the only thing that is known is that we are all uncertain about the future.