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GR District: Read Our Lips, No New Taxes

District projects zero increases to the taxpayer levy for the 2012-2013 budget while adding more programs and staff, speculates it may be the only one in New Jersey

Strong financial planning, a few good breaks and 'painful' decisions made in the current budget year is leading Glen Rock school administrators to boldly claim they'll be in a unique position next school year – it could be the only district in the state that won't raise the local tax levy in 2012-2013, and likely the only one to do so without staff or programming cuts.

"The key element here is that we are recommending a zero percent increase in the general tax fund levy for 2012-2013," said Trustee Sheldon Hirschberg. "The debt service tax levy calls for a small decrease. Those are the two components that are funded by the taxpayers, which means [for] our residents, the district will be collecting less in taxes next year than we are this year."

The news is expected to be welcomed change for taxpayers who have supported one of the pricier local education systems in the county, one lacking a tax decrease in at least 25 years, if ever, according to one administrator.

For the average house assessed at $547,481, , just as they did in 2011-2012. In addition to a flat zero increase on the school budget's tax levy, the local debt service is also dropping by $90,000 because of "aggressive" refinancing, administrators said. The general tax fund levy remains at $40,033,500 though the general budget has increased from $45.5 million to about $48.7 million.

According to Business Administrator Michael Rinderknecht, a combination of , a new healthcare opt-out option for staff, staff salary breakage, more in-house special education placements, and recent solar initiatives is helping the district realize well over $1.5 million in savings.

The preliminary budget plan presented at Monday night's public meeting touted that curriculum and instruction programs will be expanded with a greater focus on elementary school language programs, music and performing arts programs, phonics, and dual enrollment opportunities.

Work to improve the (taken from capital reserve) will also continue and plans to boost external revenue funding will emerge more fully.

While many districts are and which instructors to axe in an effort to meet the 2 percent tax cap requirements, Glen Rock also plans on adding more positions.

"No reductions in any staffing levels" are planned, Hirschberg said. An additional five staff members are penciled into the 2012-2013 budget, including a return of middle school sports, a guidance counselor in the elementary schools, a K-12 teacher determined by need, a grades 3-5 self-contained classroom teacher, and a Resource Room instructor.

It's a different tone than heard a year ago, in which dozens of custodians and teachers aides were outsourced against the wishes of teachers. The outsourcing moves represent a savings of an estimated $1.1 million, according to Rinderknecht.

"It's been a home run," he said of , saying the teacher aides from Mission One are "very professional" and buildings have never been cleaner and

Asked after the meeting what percentage increase has been built in for instructional staff – the at the end of the current school year – Rinderknecht refused to specify.

The business administrator remarked the increases built in were "in line" with recent settlements in other districts. Data provided by the New Jersey State School Boards Association to Patch said the average new contract signed since Oct. 2010 is a salary increase of 2.24 percent.

Rinderknecht said the upcoming budget success is a credit to good planning and foresight. "When I'm working on the '12-'13 budget, I'm also thinking about the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 budgets," he said.

The district will know if it gets any additional state aid by Feb. 23 after the governor's budget address. The board will likely tentatively sign off on the school budget on Feb. 27, its next meeting before the public hearing on March 26.

(should it fall under the 2 percent cap) after the GR BOE moved elections to November. The terms of three Trustees have been extended to November.

James Kleimann February 14, 2012 at 08:33 PM
What are your thoughts on this budget proposal, Glen Rock residents? Sound good? Skeptical?

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