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Ridgewood District Needs to Cut $655K

Programs could be at stake after first budget comes in high, though officials stress it's still very preliminary and subject to change

Members of the Ridgewood school board may be feeling a slight sense of deja vu. As they had in 2010-2011, the district is facing a significant gap in revenues and expenditures. 

A presentation revealed the board is short roughly $655,000 and has less than three weeks to find the cash.

If it can't, it must start looking at what it can slash.

"I do not know what needs to be cut at this time," Superintendent Daniel Fishbein said in an e-mail Wednesday. "That is what we are working on."

Education officials, when asked, did not speculate as to what programs may be reduced should the shortfall remain.

In a comprehensive but early look at the budget at Monday's school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Business Angelo DeSimone said a flat 2 percent tax rise would amount to an increased tax bill of $194.72 on the average assessed home of $797,000.

The average homeowner would be paying just under $10,000 in school taxes, he said. The assessment data is a bit shaky, DeSimone cautioned, as the assessed rates were taken from 2011. The village has not yet revealed the 2012 assessment figures, though they're expected to be lowered.

"This is an almost $90.9 million budget, which is a growth of $2.9 million," DeSimone said, later adding: "The challenges for us going forward is obviously to balance the budget. If we could find more revenue that would be great. But we need to work to get these two numbers to be even.""

The reason for the increase? Aside from a budgeted 2 percent increase in staff employee salaries and more health care claims, an increase in school supplies for science kits will be a one-shot claim of around $340,000.

Additionally, said DeSimone, outside tuition sources cannot be budgeted for at this point as students from group homes are waiting on . That question mark totals $180,000, DeSimone said.

The school board may also receive a life boat from the state, though they're not likely holding their breath given the tenuous history under Governor Christie's reign. figures are due 48 hours after Governor Christie's budget address on Feb. 21.

"As you can see there are many remaining questions such as the amount of state aid this year," BOE President Michele Lenhard told Patch. "We will have a preliminary budget to review at our next meeting but have until March 26th, the public hearing on the budget to finalize numbers and adopt it after the hearing."

It's unenviable, but familiar territory for administrators and a majority of the school board.

In 2010-2011, the school board faced a significant deficit after the  and increased benefits obligations, forcing over $6 million of . The budget was defeated that year. If not for a new insurance deal and a sympathetic council, it could have been much worse.

Some state aid , 2011-2012, and although it closed possible shortfalls, it came with a .

If the state isn't feeling "generous" this year, it seems likely someone or something will face the axe.

Students involved in the music program must be hopeful the decision to hold off on purchasing $25,000 worth of instruments won't materialize or represent a trend.

The board meets next on Feb. 27. Preliminary budgets must be submitted by March 5.

[Editor's note: Clarification – the school board has made no definitive decisions on purchasing $25K worth of musical instruments but held off on funding it Monday night.]

Dominick Nizza February 09, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Here we go again. The Village will be asked to make cuts if the budget is not passed. Perhaps, the School District should ask the Village Council where they could save a annual $100,000 loss that keeps coming out of the same pocket? Let's start with the Local Mudhole.
RdgwdGRock February 09, 2012 at 01:26 PM
same old same old...stick to the taxpayers. what about competitive bidding for supplirs, or enter into group bidding with other districts? they need to be creative and work with the budget that they have. "I do not know what needs to be cut at this time," Superintendent Daniel Fishbein said. This is not an answer.
Lauren Imbruglia February 09, 2012 at 02:15 PM
I would like to know what 'supplies' have gone up so much?
James Kleimann February 09, 2012 at 04:36 PM
The biggest jump is new science kits in grades K-8. It's about a $340,000 increase over last year and a one-time-only purchase.
Dominick Nizza February 09, 2012 at 05:37 PM
How many K-8 kids are there now and the detail cost per child out of the $340,000? And what do those kits consist of.
Dominick Nizza February 09, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Here are some Reflections on Elementary Science--Voices of Students and Teachers. Click Right for the Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imsQXui4PHs May they can design a new pool.
RdgwdGRock February 09, 2012 at 06:49 PM
exactly what is in these science kits? and why would they go up so much?
Rock February 09, 2012 at 07:04 PM
655k on a $90.9mm budget is only 0.7%.....Cutting less than 1% from a budget of over $90mm has got to be pretty darn easy!
Dominick Nizza February 09, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Are the used lesson plans for these science kits still intact? If so, can't they just be copied and used again? More information and some creative teaching is needed please.
RdgwdGRock February 09, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Rock - you would think it would be easy to find savings, but, of course, the powers-that-be are prob thinking that a 0.7% increase is nominal.
Bill Connor February 10, 2012 at 01:21 AM
On the Money end of this Fine town we need to increase rateables pool by opening up some reasonable expansion of Modern condo's and retirement type projects- look at Mahwah,Morristown CSB is cooking ,Hoboken- even Ft Lee is starting to Build and even RW Hotel if it brings in cash taxes.this would also kickstart construction spend and possibly rekindle small flame in the CSB-on the spend side we need ruthless audit and no sacred cow approach- esp with the Election coming.
Felicia February 11, 2012 at 03:13 PM
More condos means more kids packed in to them stressing the school system still more. We don't need to cover expenses by things like this that will back fire in the end, we need to get the expense part of the equation under control.
John Q. February 12, 2012 at 02:10 PM
We don't need more rateables (money to be spent), and the problem is not science kits. The problem is a bloated administration, pension benefits, and medical benefits. What is so difficult to understand?
John Q. February 12, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Additionally, using the word "slash" to describe reducing a 90.9 million dollar budget by $655,000 is part of the problem. Give me some paper and pencil, I'll find 0.7% in cuts.
Dominick Nizza February 12, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Thinking of running for Council Office? Click this Video Link and see what it takes. http://www.memun.org/public/local_govt/running_for_office.htm You might change your mind.
Joe February 12, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Where is the "bloated administration" exactly? That's an old wives' tale that the facts do not support. And pension benefits are not paid by the district at all -- not part of the budget. Medical benefits -- we have a winner! That is exactly where the problem is and as I've predicted before, that is probably where the contract negotiations are stuck. Health insurance costs go up much more than the 2% which is the max the budget is allowed to increase. You add the health increase (mandatory per contract), hit the ceiling, and then start cutting elsewhere. Year after year, same old thing.
John Q. February 13, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Where is the bloated administration? Administrative ratio to students is the highest it has ever been. Cut 2 or 3 positions and the $655,000 shortfall will just about disappear. As for the pensions, you are technically correct, but need to understand the State has a finite amount of money. So money spent on pensions is not available elsewhere. As for the medical, you have hit a bulls-eye, and your math is pretty good. Increases in medical exceeding 2% requires cuts elsewhere. Life is full of choices, and looking for more income (taxes) is not the answer.
Joe February 13, 2012 at 05:26 AM
John Q: You are not correct that the administrator:student ratio is highest its ever been. According to the New Jersey Department of Education website, the District's ratio of students to administrators for 2010-11 (most recent data) is 229:1. Previous year was 207:1 That means we have more students per administrator (or FEWER administrators per student) than last year. By the way, the state average is 161:1. Ridgewood is extremely efficient in administrator ratio, even when compared to districts similar to us. And yes I know the state has a finite $$ for pensions, but you were using pensions to criticize the spending in Ridgewood's budget and that's irrelevant.
Joe February 13, 2012 at 05:41 AM
And since we are talking budget, you'll be happy to know that Ridgewood's $$ spent on administration salaries/benefits per student has gone down every year for the past three years. You can see this data at the Dept of Education's Taxpayer's Guide to Education Spending report: http://www.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/education/csg/11/csg.pl?string=dist_code4390&maxhits=650 I find it's most helpful for everyone if we try to stick to facts.
Bill Connor February 13, 2012 at 05:07 PM
So despite all of the well worn Arguments Pro- con development ratables for Retirement based Housing/Business Professional condos (IE Hoboken- Morristown and others) rental demand is strong in NJ.Don't agree we dont need More rateables- we have a Growth system Built into our Year over Year Tax Increases- but no growth sytem on the Revenue Side ( businesses struggling- less taxes) we have a Multi Milion Dollar express Train completed in the CBD with no plan on how to Leverage the Transit Hub right in the Village for fear there might be some Kids jammed into those 1/2 Bedroom Professional targetted Condos.Its a risk worth studying- More population Brings more consumer Purchases and yes there will be more cars and we should all get over that Fact as we all Drive in this Town.See other earlier Blog comments on developement Pros and cons.- Spending Agree we need to scour our spend and Service Agreements for synergies with other towns or reduced municipal services- Garbage/Recycling or other abilities to Limit and conserve Capital.Realize there are many who wont agree.Thats Ok too.


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