Board of Ed Adopts $86 Million Preliminary Budget
The board's Public Budget Hearing will take place on March 28
The Fair Lawn Board of Education approved an $86 million preliminary 2012-2013 school budget Thursday that includes a 1.9 percent tax increase.
The proposed school budget is $2.35 million larger than the budget that passed last year, which included a 1.75 percent tax increase.
Until the district receives information on the town's certified rateables it won't be able to calculate the exact tax increase per household, but Superintendent Bruce Watson said he believed it would mark the lowest dollar tax increase the district has ever had.
Last Thursday, Fair Lawn learned that it would receive $3,269,797 in state aid -- an additional $579,190, or 21.5 percent, on top of what it received last year.
Watson pointed out during his budget presentation Thursday that while this amount is presented by the state as an increase in aid, it actually represents $2.3 million less than what Fair Lawn would have received under the legislature-approved School Funding Reform Act formula that existed prior to Gov. Chris Christie's education reforms.
“There’s games that are being played with the way they bring it out and everybody thinks we’re getting more," said Watson, who acknowledged that while he felt calling it a state aid increase was disingenuous, he was happy and thankful to accept any additional monies the state offered.
The district's state aid decreased $4 million after the governor's initial cuts in 2010, and has been increasing gradually each year since then.
"We have been told that the state is going back to the formula," Watson said, referring to the School Funding Reform Act formula. "But they’re going back on a phase-in. They’re not going back to the formula in its totality.”
The proposed 2012-2013 budget includes the addition of 10 new teachers and staff in areas of need throughout the district. The district is currently budgeting $745,000 for the new hires, which include a speech teacher, art teacher, physical education teacher, two Spanish teachers, a resource center teacher, an ESL teacher, two social workers (or one social worker and one kindergarten teacher) and a psychologist.
Watson wouldn't commit to whether there would be teacher or staff reductions in any departments, but said it was "a very good possibility."
“When you have a 1.9 percent growth in taxes and aid is really dragging way behind, we can’t have everything we want," he said. "I’m trying to get new staff in where I critically need them for kids, so something has got to give.”
The school budget will be discussed in greater depth on Wednesday, March 28 at the board's public budget hearing.