The 2018-2019 school year budget that Verona Board of Education approved at its April 24 meeting seemed bad enough: Two teaching positions cut as well as a tech assistant, full-timers reduced to part-time, and chops to both the non-discretionary and discretionary budgets. But last night, Verona Superintendent Dr. Rui Dionisio said that there will have to be even more belt tightening before the new budget goes into effect.
Dionisio disclosed that the district will need an additional $60,000 to meet scheduling requests at Verona High School. The money would be used to support additional classes to be taught by current staff and would not bring back the positions eliminated on April 24. An out-of-district special education student who had been paying Verona $20,000 in tuition to attend school here has decided not to return to Verona in the fall, depriving Verona of that revenue. In addition, a new student will require an out-of-district placement for special education, which will cost Verona $80,000.
To meet what will now be a $160,000 shortfall in the budget, Dionisio asked the Board to eliminate the director of facilities position, an administrative role. The BOE approved the request in an addendum resolution. Cheryl Nardino, the district’s business administrator, will take on the facilities role for the 2018-19 school year, and Dionisio stressed that that would be “at no additional expense to the district.”
At last night’s meeting Nardino also gave a sweeping overview of how Verona’s public school budget has come to be in the situation it is in, from mismanagement almost two decades ago that left the district unable to pay many bills, to the state’s shackles on spending and sharp cuts to state aid. Verona has tightened its financial management, Nardino said, but Trenton’s spending restrictions fall harder, ironically, on well-run districts than those that are not: School boards now operate under a cap of a 2% annual increase in the budget’s tax levy, instead of a 4% increase on total expenditures, which was a higher number.
Dionisio and Nardino have already given a presentation on the budget to the F.N. Brown SCA. There will be presentations to other SCA as follows: VHS, May 14, 7 p.m.; Brookdale, May 15, 7 p.m.; Forest, May 21, (time not set); HBW, May 23, 7 p.m.; and Laning, May 29, 7 p.m. All of the presentations are open to the public.
You can watch the meeting in full below. The information on the budget begins at the six-minute mark.