Friday, April 11, 2008

School Budget Masquerade

Special thanks to the school district for making the budget presentation available for download.

The Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District has been marketing itself as the picture of fiscal self-restraint. The budget presentation states the tax levy will only rise 2% and that “[c]omparative costs per pupil are below the state average.” Though technically correct, it’s a distortion of the complete picture. The truth is that the district began the budget process by raising taxes to the legal maximum, we’re spending more than necessary, and this is a budget that should be rejected.

Slide 8 describes how they arrived at the 2% increase. They took last year’s tax levy and then increased it by 4%. Had they gone beyond the 4% mandated state cap, the county would have likely rejected the budget and enforced budget cuts.

Meanwhile, state aid increased by 10% under Corzine’s new funding formula, which reflects the student body rather than the zip code. However, the state believes the district is spending more than necessary so, of the 10% increase, only 2.89% can be used toward expenses to cover inflation. The remaining 7.11% must be applied to tax relief.

During the budget review, both the administration and board of education made clear they opposed using any additional state funds towards tax relief but that they had no choice.

As slide 8 shows, the maximum tax levy permitted by law is $44,326,599. Then, on slide 11, that same number, the maximum tax levy permitted by law, is the proposed tax levy. Is raising taxes to the absolute maximum a sign of fiscal restraint? According to our board of education, which unanimously supports the budget, the answer is yes.

Next is the item of per pupil costs being below the state average. Once again, technically correct but there are two caveats. Slide 12 shows our district’s average per pupil cost is $12,227, below the state’s $12,806. But what exactly is “average per pupil cost”? Slide 4 shows we have a projected student body of 3,859. Multiply the number of pupils by the per pupil cost and you have $47,183,993. That means $16,172,023 of a $63,356,016 budget, or over 25%, is not being counted as part of the “per pupil costs”.

Another point to remember is that “state average” is the lowest of standards. In virtually every measurement, district officials use the more appropriate District Factor Group (DFG) which groups school districts according to socioeconomic measures. Matawan-Aberdeen’s DFG is FG (upper middle income). In that group, we had the 28th highest per pupil cost out of 89 similar school districts in the 06-07 school year.

The one notable bright spot in the school budget is the employee contribution (including teachers) towards healthcare benefits, a first in our district’s history. (One of the reasons the teachers union is “secretly” opposing Aitken’s candidacy is because he demanded that all employees begin contributing towards their healthcare just like workers in the private sector. During contract negotiations, about 70 union members picketed outside his home.)

Still, there are far more places we can cut. Promethean boards, as beautiful as they are, have not been proven to improve education. Last year, the district spent $9,000 on proposals for converting the TV studio into an instructional facility. I would rather see Huskievision become self-sufficient or shut down; it’s a luxury item we cannot afford. We’d be better off leasing time from another school district. The Response to Intervention (RTI) program uses teaching methods that are either harmful or ineffective and should be shut down. The district could make more of an effort to remove unwanted teachers and administrators. We could purchase refurbished equipment. We could reduce utility costs by using state funds to develop “green” energy sources and become more energy efficient.

Additionally, we could develop alternative revenue sources such as grants (one of Aitken’s proposals), business sponsorships, for-profit community services, and making Huskievision profit-oriented.

The Board of Education and the administration worked very hard on the proposed budget and had to make lots of unwanted spending cuts but, in the end, they did the absolute legal minimum. I would never eat in a restaurant that only adhered to the legal minimum and I would never support a school initiative that only sought to meet the barest legal standards.

The Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District is the highest taxed area in Monmouth County. Once again, the citizenry needs to say “NO”.
>>> Read more!


Anonymous said...

Where are the facts on an employee contribution towards healthcare or anything else on the teachers contract including the percent per year for the next 3 years. I haven't seen any updates. They do represent us. From what I understand the contribution part is minimal if at all, just a change in carriers for a one year rate decrease. Next year they can raise it and what about the year after that? Having a stake in this as taxpayers we should know all the details before the election, not sketchy parts they want us to know. Not an update since January on the school website. All these failed budgets and nothing of substanance ever gets cut. Whos being fooled again?

Anonymous said...

If Mr Aiken demanded employees contribute to benefits like they do in the private sector, then you should have some proof to substantiate his demand. Lets then see if they contribute like in the private sector or this may not be a first ever in the districts history. Maybe not such a notable bright spot. Maybe they folded like a cheap tent after the picketing outside their homes. Vote no and demand better performance before we give them anymore of our hard earned money.

Aberdeener said...

The proposed teachers contract is not ratified and not public. However, I did confirm that the reduction in projected employee benefits expenditures is too high to be solely from non-teaching employee contributions.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a child in this district as well as the husband of a teacher in New Jersey I will vote NO on the budget for one simple fact.

The simple fact that this district and every other district in New Jersey is never really audited and streamlined as the taxpayers deserve.

My niece who is also a teacher in an Abbot District tells me and my wife often that and I quote "she cannot spend all of the money they throw at these Abbot Districts and that they are forced to spend it all on ANYHTHING they might need.

But Corzine is all to ready to placate the Abbot Districts and their obvious voting blocks and politically connected suppliers and of course the NJEA who are the best organized and operated biggest crime syndicate in New Jersey.

Example after example is right at the surface if they bothered to look. Matawan and Aberdeen are no different and the savings are there for the taxpayers. There is unfortunately no one who will just scratch the surface. It is easier to go to the taxpayer ATM.

It all must change before we are suffocated by debt.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention that my entire family will be voting for Ken Aitken. PROUDLY I may add as he is the only clear choice and the one with experience in technology, business, finances and a deep caring thought process for the students the other candidate even fail to think about.

For Ken Aitken his opponents are only in it to restore the power to their handlers. We cannot afford that failed and bitter and some say unbalanced control to negatively impact us ever again.Sure the power has shifted on the school baord for the better I say and they have the scores and financial cuts to prove it. This control of the council did not promise the world to the PTO's and give away the store in contracts and negotiations. Ken Aitken, O'Connel, Kenny, Gambino, Donahue are in it for the betterment of the district, not their power base and their PTO's, which are more like PAC's.

Similarly I would suggest sending a message to the other school board members whom may get a wake up call when they see Ken Aitken get far more votes from individuals who cared little to vote for either of the other two candidates.

Call everyone you know who lives in Aberdeen and tell them to vote. Even if they tell you they are voting fro Rubino and Ruprecht. I have already had that conversation with someone yesterday, who told me they are voting for them because their neighbor put their sign on their front lawn.

I told her respectfully that make sure she takes a picture of the sign, as if the Rubino and Ruprecht team was to unfortunately win the election the next sign she will see on her neighbors lawn will be a For Sale sign, this because her neighbor will not be able to afford to live here because of the Rubino and Ruprecht handlers have a history of failing our students and taxpayers.

The financial and academic changes we have seen in the past year were far different than the cesspool that our district was in in the years prior under the prior school board president Zavorskas and that "waste of time" that was Barbara Williams, another Barbato and Zavorskas puppet. The failures and mis-spending by that controlling group was abysmal, as well as the districts test scores which have only this past yera truly shown a positive change.

In the last year a change has started and the progress is positive, that needs to continue. If not the students and taxpayers lose again.

KEN AITKEN is the only choice!

Anonymous said...

I apologize for the errors in the last statement, sometime the mind works faster that the spell check.

Anonymous said...

Ken Aitken stopped by and spent a few minutes with my wife and I as we working in the yard.
In just that few minutes he was able to encapsulate in no time at all the need to continue the progress he and his similarly devoted board members have made this past year.

In reading his literature and looking at the Rubino and Ruprecht literature I do not see the honesty Mr. Aitken showed us from his opponents.

I do have to agree with my wife when she said as Mr. Aitken departed "that man really cares and he gets my vote". I had to adjust that statement as it would be "our votes" as I agree whole heartedly with my wife and her sense of Mr Aitken.

I see that Rubino and Ruprecht keep telling us what they will do and find that their lack of accomplishments and their lack of proof all too telling.

My wife and I are alone now and our children have long since left the school district, so every dollar that is spent properly is owed to the taxpayers as money well spent and assured that it is needed. We likewise need every dollar but we trust Mr. Aitken to spend it wisely.

Ken Aitekn will be our choice on April 15th.

Thank you Mr. Aitken

Anonymous said...

Ken Aitken is the only clear independent choice. No puppeteer will be pulling his strings. Ken is his own man.

I do have to ask where is Rubino getting all the money for all of these signs?

Norman Kauff and his band og thieves?

We will see?

Just 3 days left.

Anonymous said...

Joey Warren - Why don't YOU run for election?????

Anonymous said...

Joey Warren, Stuart Brown, Tom Perry and a woman residing in Frenea, Cliffwood or Cliffwood Beach run as a team.

All they would have to do is expose the Norman Kauff crime syndicate for what they have done to Aberdeen, as well as how much they cost the taxpayers of Aberdeen over the past ten years, and they win HANDS DOWN.

No party affiliations just be INDEPENDENT-REPUBLI-CRATS and they win easily with nothing more than the truth.

Just tell the truth to the people, it would be honest and completely unexpected and something new in political campaigns!

No party affiliations just the TRUTH.

The democrats and republicans would not know what to do! They would crumble under the pressure of having to explain away their actions as well as their complete inability to be truthful. It would be too much for them.

But you have to start right away to get the word out.


Show the voters where their money really goes and show them how a small man with too much power runs Aberdeen. A man never elected by the people runs the whole show.

None of my friends in Aberdeen ever saw Norman Kauff' name on the ballot, but he runs the town. he is running it into the ground right now.

All it takes is the TRUTH !

Middlesex Jim

Anonymous said...

Lets see if this board of education is being open and honest about this budget presented to the public for vote, no matter who you support. This post does say school budget masquerade. After further review of the budget presentation, under the heading "Managing Costs" it says Negotiated lower health benefit rate increases. Does that mean contribution towards health care benefits? I think not. It means a new carrier at a lower rate in order to get the districts business for one year. Under Salaries and Benefits it shows a decrease of $800,000. Since we know that no teachers were cut and salaries go up every year should we assume that this is the savings in the benefits area. Or maybe teachers on the higher end of pay scale are retiring and we can hire at the low end. Where is that savings in this budget? Under "What is included" in small print at the bottom it says There were 16 teachers and 6 interventionists saved by the changes in health benefits. Does that mean contributions? And if your using that money to save teachers you can't show it as a savings. This is all just a guess since the contract is not ratified and public, but should have been explained better for all to understand. Just maybe the only bright spot was all smoke and mirrors with all board members knowing the truth. I know you read this Ken, and if as the Aberdeener says you demanded and won a substantial (not token) contribution to health care costs for the next three years you have my vote.

Anonymous said...

"Write In" Joey Warren on Tuesday and vote for Ken!!!

Anonymous said...

Although you have two votes, just vote for one.
That would be for Ken Aiken.

Aberdeener said...

Regarding employee benefits, rather than look at the budget presentation, please have a look at budget summary.

On the line item "Personal Services - Employee Benefits", expenditures drop by $740K.

Employee Benefits as a % of Salaries drops from 30.7 to 26.3.

This is the first time in recent memory that benefits costs have actually dropped. Considering that teacher benefits comprise the vast majority of the overall cost, the budget must assume that teacher benefits costs are being reduced as well.

It's possible that the teachers have simply agreed to a less expensive benefits plan but even that would be notable.

Anonymous said...

Not only has Jan Rabino not accomplished anything - she can't be trusted. Check out Ken's website for the truth... She actually pressed him not to run someone against him! If you can't trust someone for the small things, how can we trust them with our children's future and our tax $'s! Check out the email on:

Vote for Ken and write in Joey Warren!

Anonymous said...

ABERDEENER - please check it out

Please look to see what the STATE judges the school district aid by. I have been told several times that the state merely goes by the zip code - 07747 - WHICH INCLUDES THE LAKE RIDGE section of Old Brdige and the surrounding area. Cliffwood Beach is 07735, and that consideration for aid goes to Keyport being that the zip code. if this is true, this disctrict is NOT GETTING the proper aid it deserves.

you seem to have a knack for investigating, this is A WORTHY CAUSE.

Aberdeener said...

The old state formula was based upon zip code. However, the new formula is based upon student demographics. This is why the state increased our district's funding by 10%.

There is no question the state underfunded our district for many years. Prior to the upcoming year, our district only received half the average level of state funding. With the 10% boost, we'll now be getting a little more than half the state average.

As for our property taxes, they'll be about 1.2% lower than they would have been without the additional aid.

The only place we'll ever find real savings is at the local level. Still, I believe we should be aggressively pursuing additional government aid and grants at the state and federal levels.

Anonymous said...

Remember to get out and vote today….
And, please consider the following when you select a candidate to represent the MARSD community.

1. Remember to vote for the candidate that serves this district’s goals and ambitions.
2. Remember to vote for the candidate that is approachable and available to speak with you.
3. Remember to vote for the candidate that keeps the school board’s business in an open forum, rather than going backwards to the old majority rule of manipulating the process with their closed door, by invitation only, meetings.
4. Remember that those “teas” held by the two red sign candidates were an elitist and self serving mechanism to propagate lies and rumors. These “teas” (by invitation only) served an unscrupulous purpose and this is where all the rubbish and rumor spreading tactics were sown, to be spread around our community. Truthful and honest candidates speak to the entire public, in an open and fair forum, and do not send self-serving, manipulative letters to the APP to explain away their flaws and weaknesses. And, candidates with integrity, and a positive message, don’t use the US mail as a means to spew malicious rhetoric (via postcards) as a means of campaigning for our children’s future.
5. Remember whose interests will be served by a candidate that solicits campaign funds from “friends” that are employees of our school system. Elected officials need to remember that they serve their community and not the interests of unions that have their own agenda and their own interests at stake.

Think about what it means to vote for those that wage a campaign on lies, deception and rumor mongering. Is this the leadership you want making decisions in the best interest of our children and community? Voting is one of our most revered rights as citizens and our votes should reflect our sense of values and integrity. Our elected officials are our voices and represent our concerns as parents that have a stake in the academic future of all the children in our community (now and for future generations). This community deserves a school system that meets and exceeds reasonable standards. Let’s keep this community going in the right direction.
Polls are open from 1:00 to 9:00 PM. Exercise your right as a stake holder in this community. VOTE!

kidsinthekitchen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


I know that is what I want for my children, and for all the other children in the Aberdeen/Matawan School District, as well as for all residents in Aberdeen.

matawan advocate said...

Aberdeener, As requested email address for the Matawan Advocate is:

It is on the bottom of the Blog. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Anonymous said...

When I awoke this morning to see the results of yesterday's election I was stunned and shocked. I spent the rest of the day numb. How can evil win so much? Did anyone hear the saying "Evil triumphs when good people do nothing". I thought, what could I have done to influence a better outcome? It's interesting that you have to be a good person to recognize it in others. I'm sorry Mr. Aitkens, I didn't do enough to spread the word so you could fight the good fight. I'm so sorry. I'll strive to do better for next year.