Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More School Budget Woes

Last September, the school district discovered that $1.7 million of the state funding was derived from federal stimulus money and would likely be non-recurring. That created the first big whole in the budget. Last week, the district learned the state would probably cut our funding some more. Every year, after setting aside a 2% surplus to maintain as a rainy day fund, the leftover monies would go into the Budgeted Fund Balance and used for taxpayer relief the following year. To cut the state deficit, Gov. Corzine has proposed cutting state funding by half the Budgeted Fund Balance. For Matawan-Aberdeen, that means another $280,000 cut on top of the $1.7 million cut.

Meanwhile, our operating costs continue to rise. New Jersey is raising the premiums on our health benefits plan by 25% and every staff member is expecting a salary increase. (Last year, salaries were projected to grow $1.4 million before cuts and total health benefits to cost $6.7 million.) Toss in pension, utilities, and everything else with cost increases and you’re playing in a $5 million ballpark.

Yet, we cannot afford to raise taxes.

At last night’s meeting, I presented three lists I downloaded from the Monmouth County website. In the past 90 days, Aberdeen Township sold tax certificates against 41 properties. During that same time period, foreclosure actions were initiated against 39 properties in Aberdeen. And the Sheriff’s list of sales includes 39 Aberdeen properties. For a small community during a short time period, this is huge.

Additionally, the jobs market continues to shrink and inflation fears are rising as the dollar falls.

We cannot afford tax increases.

Though I’m only one of nine board members, I believe several others share my position. We must cut everywhere we can cut without jeopardizing our mission or seriously detracting from our quality of life. We need to be creative. And we, as a community, must be willing to recognize that these cuts will be painful, far more for some than others, but our only alternative is to raise taxes and I do not believe that is an option.

For those wondering, I remain committed to supporting another hefty salary increase for Dr. O’Malley and Ms. Irons if they can deliver another 0% tax levy increase without any major cuts to critical services. Even in bad times, we must always reward performance.

Unlike prior boards or the town council, we must lead, we must set the targets, and we must hold our administration accountable. I oppose any tax increase this year.
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Anonymous said...

Why don't you just cut the Millions upon Millions of bloat that Quinn put in the budget. After all your bellyaching about how bad things were before you, there must be at least an easy 5 Million for you to cut if even half of what you have said is true. Where are the revenue streams you where going to build in? Where are the enormous savings on special ed and legal bills? Don't forget to plug the hole caused by the loss of revenue when the jointure moves out of the central office.

Anonymous said...

How about cutting the 3 and 4 year old child care classes so that Mommies can stay home and play tennis among other things. How is it that all of us were just fine all these years with going to school at Kindergarten at six years old? Our district and others need to look at costs associated with programs that now give supposed child instruction time almost from birth. All at taxpayer expense of course.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the idea of cutting back on all of these pre-K classes needs an overly expensive study by CME? That is how it works in town hall all the time. Right Normy?

thats fn funny said...

Micheal Klavon where are you?

He and other idiots like him deserve to be bitch slapped for the mess they left behind. You too Quinn.

Speaking of Bitch Slapped

What do you think Coreena is doing?

Stand and deliver or get out of the way said...

It is obvious with the appointment of Brett Schundler that Governor elect Christie is planning on taking the bull by the horns. Or in this case the Bullshit of the N.J.E.A. at least. Brett Schundler appointed to head up the D.O.E. is a man who has been very vocal and stands tall on his beliefs and his stance on school choice, vouchers and charter schools. The N.J.E.A. beat it back before but even their leadership sees the writing on the wall. It reads it is about time.

Wow a man who believed and stood by what he has always thought in the cutthroat world of dog eat dog politics in New Jersey. Schundler like Christie did not change parties or change his mind every time the latest poll numbers were printed.

Change is coming and while it will be very hard and every little nook and cranny and special interest group will say we are being picked on or wrongly selected for draconian cuts. Change must come.

The good old boy networks and raises and more are given out to ensure voting blocks must change. If it does not or men like Chris Christie do not have his appointments approved as he needs to have done it will be business as usual in Trenton for the exact same type of leadership that got us into this mess in the first place.

In closing I would like to put it into the web universe that John Corzine should not let the door hit him in the ass on the way out of the statehouse next Tuesday morning when they swear in Chris Christie. Christie deserves our support as the change he needs to bring will be painful, long overdue and all too necessary after years of the politics as usual. Politics as usual that is that has made us the laughing stock of the nation.

The changes that are necessary for the educational process will be a battle like we have never seen before. That is what has historically shaped our nation. Now it needs to take place from within our own governmental structure. I hope Chris Christie gets the support he needs. God knows John Corzine was a disaster.

God Bless New Jersey

Stop the insanity said...

Mr. Warren,
It is two months until a budget needs to be presented and you do not know where the other board members stand? Shouldn't a consensus already be established and a direction given to the superintendent. You say you believe others support your mission of no tax increase. Who does and who doesn't, because that is who we need to be communicating with. You and the others should work the budget backwards. You know how much money you will have with no tax increase, so start with that number. Subtract out your fixed costs that you have no control over, utilities etc. Figure out what programs you must have, get rid of the others. Whatever is left is what goes to salaries and benefits. The contract renewal makes this possible. If you and the others really believe in no tax increase then the burden should not be put on the taxpayers to fund salary and benefit increases in this economy. If this can't be done with the 62 million we are already paying then no increases. If some money is left give them the increases based on that. Your response please.

Aberdeener said...

The school board, as a body, should be instructing the superintendent to present a budget with no tax increase. I don't believe I have the support to pass a motion but I intend to push all the same. I've seen the numbers and it's possible to make the cuts and still fulfill our mission. The cuts will be extremely painful but, so long as we can still fulfill our mission, we have no right to ask for a tax increase.

Let's hope I'm not the only voice at the next board meeting. We need to make some noise. No tax increases.

Anonymous said...

Will these cuts be extremely painful to the salaried employees or will they be extremely painful to the people who are paying these salaries and benefits? Could you be a little less vague. If you agree that the board should be giving the superintendent direction on the amount of tax increase, tell us where the objection is coming from to make that happen. With no new contract, stop the insanitys plan only seems possible at this time.

Aberdeener said...

The major cost drivers are salaries and benefits. Without some early concessions from the union, which no one expects, I don't see how it's possible to achieve the necessary cuts without staff reductions.

Anonymous said...

then reduce the staff.

Anonymous said...

If the contract can not be settled and it remains the same as last year, who pays the difference when the benefits increase? Shouldn't the district continue to pay the same amount, not the increase if it is not negotiated.

Aberdeener said...

The current contract remains in effect until a new one is signed and the benefits section is very bad for the district. It requires us to maintain a teacher's current level of benefits, regardless of cost to the district.

So, let's say insurance costs rise 25% (which they did), we have to foot the entire bill. Then, let's say the state changes its plan to no longer cover abortions. The district would be required to either purchase supplemental insurance or reimburse any teacher the full cost of getting an abortion. If the state changes the cost of co-pays or deductibles, or anything, we have to guarantee the difference.

Anonymous said...

The district can not find comparable insurance for less than a 25% increase? It needs to be shopped and start saving us money as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

Get our high priced Business Administrator or her assistant to get prices from different insurance companies.

Aberdeener said...

The business administrator did exactly that and forwarded the responses to the board. Every single insurance provider we approached rejected our business because, even after the cost increases, our staff's health insurance claims were higher than our premiums. In other words, even after a 25% increase and paying over $19,000 for family coverage, the state was still losing money on us.

This is what happens when employees have zero incentives to restrain health costs.

Anonymous said...

My money is on O'Malley that he comes through again for the taxpayer! Mark down this comment. Joey has the inside scoop and he knows what O'Malley is doing.

Anonymous said...

You said we need to make some noise at the next board meeting for a no tax increase. Who should that be directed at? We know where you stand on the issue. Does the superintendent, the business administrator or other board members need convincing that we can not afford any more taxes at this time. It seems from your tone that everyone is not on board with that.

Aberdeener said...

Some of the cuts will be draconian and have political consequences, like the disgruntled former employee running for the school board.

Appearances to the contrary, voices at the school board meeting do carry weight.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever wonder about low attendance at board meetings even with the attempt to rotate the meeting place. Is it because of the great jobs the schools are doing and our taxes are so low? Is it because no one cares about the issues, especially taxes or doesn't have the time? I think not. Its because the attitude most people have is minds are already made up, so why bother. Another great one is they are going to do whatever they want anyway. That is the perception of past and the current board. When was the last time administration or board members changed their position based on public comment? Why bother, no ones listening. With unopposed elections of recent years you have no consequences.

Aberdeener said...

I've been intending to write a piece "How to Lobby the BOE". It's an issue of who, when, and how. The problem is people are coming to the mike during a 3-minute comment period immediately prior to a vote being taken. Plus, the comments are usually regarding personnel, an area where the board has very little involvement.

If you want the district to change direction, you need to become part of the conversation. The board won't be recommending a budget until March. Now is the time to be heard. Don't wait until after the conversation has ended.

Anonymous said...

Two thirds of New Jersey voters favor merit pay for public school teachers according to a new Quinnipiac Poll. As a board member you should listen to the voters and negotiate for what the majority is in favor of. Here is a big opportunity to really do something constructive that could make a difference, instead of wasting time on writing mission statements. Your mission, should be to do what the taxpayers are overwhelmingly asking for.

Aberdeener said...

Merit pay is a contractual issue. Under instruction from the NJEA, the teachers union informed the district it will not agree to anything that ties teacher performance to student performance.

If the teachers agree to merit pay, they'll have my support.

Anonymous said...

Now the teachers have to agree to have your support of what the taxpayers want. Your the employer, they are the employees. Of course that would be the position of union thugs who have gotten away with bullying a broken system and feel they can hold you hostage without performing. Under instruction from the taxpayers, inform the teachers union the district will not agree to anything other then tying pay to teacher performance. Your supposed to represent us.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Warren,
At the last board meeting did you pass a motion for no tax increases?

Aberdeener said...

I reiterated my position and I've been asking the administration for an Armageddon budget.

We're trying to cut as much as possible without touching the classroom or extra curricular activities. However, absent some union concessions, I don't see how it's possible to cut 10% without hitting the students some way.

Anonymous said...

Why are we letting the union stop us from taking a stand? Teachers pay should have some correlation to their performance and student performance.
Can't the board refuse to negotiate with the union?

Anonymous said...

I am a parent in Aberdeen and one of my son's friends is over every night. He never does any homework while my son does. I ask him if he has any, he says yes. My son tells me that he never does anything, his parents dont care how he does in school.

Is it fair to tie a teachers pay to whether this kid works?

Just a relabeled tenure policy said...

Teacher pay tied to student success? It will be amazing how many kids will get good grades in class and then all of a sudden will have it be said that the student didn't test well. The MTEA will fight this tooth and nail. Just like the tenure clause that allows for too many teachers to languish in their own hypocricy.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Warren,
Why should the union give concessions? The people you have so much respect for negotiated this miserable contract and now these same people will do it again. This time, if you don't rein in salary increases that far exceed the rate of inflation and find a way to require all employees to pay a portion of their health care costs comparable to those in the private sector, you will have failed us. Negotiate a fair contract, one that takes into account ten percent unemployment and wage freezes in the private sector, and we won't have to be looking for concessions to properly educate our children within our means and without our property tax bills soaring.

Back to basics ONLY said...

What is the football budget?

What is the sports budget?

What is the band budget?

What is the theatre budget?

What is the pre-k budget?

Everything needs tbe looked at.

If it is not the basics of education it needs to be looked at.

Salary of Glastein first to go.
Salary of Spells second to go.

Reality sucks don't it.

I am losing my home and I am fed the F up with teachers and administrators who feel privilidged and all too safe because of the NJEA and salaries too generously awarded in the past for hack administration personell who do little. 25% of their healthcare costs they should pay as well in this next contract or let them walk the picket lines.

Welcome to our reality.

Rich V. your not funny said...

Rich V. You are a joke.

You on the school board is also a joke.

You as a voulnteer coach is also a joke.

And as a joke you are not funny.

Anonymous said...

So true.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of budget woes, what is the district doing about non residence students attending our schools especially in the area of special education. Who is responsible for making sure all of our students legally live in the town? The rumor is we have some students who don't belong here and nothing is being done about it.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Joey, On the agenda was a discussion about the budget. What is the verdict? Fill us in.