NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Members of the West Essex Regional Board of Education unanimously approved its district budget on Monday with a decreased cost per pupil from the current year’s revised figure of $21,206 to $20,644 for the 2020-2021 school year. To total budget ($43,751,185) also represents a 1.78-percent increase from the current year’s budget.

The tax impact for each sending district, which is based upon the enrollment numbers from each of the four communities from Oct. 15 and is subject to change, was presented as follows:

  • Essex Fells will see an annual decrease of $13.62 to the average home assessed at $1,001,801;
  • Fairfield will see an annual decrease of $78,36 to the average home assessed at $528,962;
  • North Caldwell will see an annual increase of $53.88 to the average home assessed at $687,100; and
  • Roseland will see an annual increase of $22.31 to the average home assessed at $466,907.

According to Monday’s budget presentation, the local tax levy (adopted at $40,028,428) is based upon the $1,795,072 state aid expectation for the upcoming school year. This sum indicates an increase of $241,801 (or 15.57 percent) over the state aid incurred during the current school year. State aid figures represent 4.1 percent of the district’s revenues.

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The state will be issuing a report on May 22 that could alter the expected state aid due to the effects of the pandemic.

The economic impact of reopening the buildings and any protective measures that could be mandated as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak remains unclear. It is also unknown whether the cost to provide those protective measures will be covered by the state, federal grants, or through the district budget.

A significant decrease in federal funds has also affected budget revenue for the upcoming year, according to Monday’s presentation.

The $33,000 in expected aid from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reflects a decrease of about 67.17 percent (or $67,508), and the new figures for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding has decreased from $308,678 to $230,000 this year, which represents a decrease of 25.49 percent (or $78,676).

According to the presentation, these federal funds are incorporated in the district’s special revenue fund line, which will now represent 1 percent of the total budget.

Also noteworthy is the decrease in the debt service, which currently stands at $2.116 million. The outstanding debt for the upcoming school year is $2,050,313, representing a total decrease of 3.15 percent (or $66,587).

The West Essex district budget as adopted on Monday also maintains existing staff, academic offerings, extracurricular activities and transportation in addition to meeting the needs of increases of salaries and benefits and operational costs.  The budget also covers the cost of additional staff, classroom renovations and Chromebooks for incoming 7th grade students. 

According to Superintendent of Schools Damion Macioci, all new hires are pending as the district awaits the news of potential changes to expected state aid.  Additional staffing would include “two new support staff positions and one additional teaching staff member,” according to Macioci.

He also noted that renovations are for the refurbishment of classrooms in the middle school and high school. Ongoing renovations include “upgrading a few classrooms every summer,” he added.

In response to an inquiry from former board member Anthony Prinzo, Business Administrator Melissa Kida clarified that although certain funds have not been utilized to the recent school closures, these funds can only be “rolled over” into the capital reserve fund and cannot be included in the budget itself.

The full budget presentation as well as a user-friendly version of the budget can be found on the district’s website.