BOE Approves 2011-2012 School Budget

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The Verona Board of Education approved a school budget last night that will have one of the smallest impacts on your household budget in years.

The general fund tax levy portion of the budget–$27,158,147–works out to about $104 more per year for the average Verona home. That compares with a $190 per home increase for the 2010-2011 budget and an increase of $270 per home for the 2005-2006 school year.

This is the first year for budgeting under the state’s 2% cap and this year’s budget is exactly 2% higher than last year’s levy, even though Verona has lost $2.5 million in state aid over the last two years. Superintendent Charles Sampson said the key savings in the budget are scheduling changes that will reduce the number of classroom aides and the elimination of the assistant business administrator position in the school office. This position will likely be replaced with a bookkeeper for an annual savings of $30,000.  There are also two retirements of long-time teachers. Sampson noted that, even as Trenton imposes the 2% cap on school spending, it is adding to school costs, mandating a financial literacy curriculum and next year, specialists to implement the provisions of the state’s new anti-bullying legislation.

Sampson was unable to compare Verona’s budget to that of its comparable schools–the so-called “I” district factor group–because the state is late in releasing the data on those schools. He noted that, over the last six years, Verona’s enrollment has risen 9% (to a projected 2,197 students for 2011-2012) , well above most of its costs. Salary costs are up 4.7% over five years, benefits are up 6.2% and special education costs are essentially flat. Discretionary spending in Verona has been cut by $600,000 over the past 10 years, although it ran higher in the current budget because of snow overtime costs. Verona’s schools are operating under a spending freeze for the rest of this school year.

There were no questions on the budget from the roughly two dozen people in attendance. Separately, the Board deferred a decision on changes to Verona’s foreign language curriculum, saying that it would operate as it currently does for the next school year. The BOE noted that it had gotten 177 responses to the language survey it posted and that it would be releasing more data on language instruction in coming months.

There will be budget presentations at the SCA meetings of all four elementary schools on Monday, April 4. You can also catch a presentation at the H.B. Whitehorne SCA meeting on April 6. The public vote on the school budget is Wednesday, April 27, a change from the normal Tuesday polling day. If you will be unable to vote in person that day, you can request a mail-in ballot by following the directions here.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].

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