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Morgan 'Disappointed' in School Budget Discussion

Despite stated board goals, the village school board won't be discussing budget scenarios until January.

In his ideal vision, the school board would be tasking its top administrators to assess what a budget with a zero percent tax increase would look like. From there, all additional spending would have to be "justified."

But Ridgewood trustee Jim Morgan didn't see that scenario unfold Monday night when the first substantive 2013-2014 budget discussion came up.

When the school board sat down in June to etch its board goals, Morgan proposed specifically making a zero percent tax increase the board goal. Though he had some support from fellow Trustee Christina Krauss, the three remaining members – and the superintendent – were hesitant to endorse locking it in as a goal.

The board ultimately decided that in October Superintendent Daniel Fishbein would present what education in Ridgewood might look like with tax increases of either zero percent; 0.5 percent; 1 percent; 1.5 percent; and 2 percent, the maximum allowed per state guidelines.

October's come and gone, and the timeline, at least, has changed.

Michele Lenhard, Vince Loncto and board president Sheila Brogan said they'd prefer Fishbein have significantly more information on the specifics of the budget before they pontificated on those scenarios. Those numbers are expected to come in January, Fishbein said.

According to Lenhard, moving from October to January to hash out those scenarios "doesn't mean we're not meeting the goal, it just means we're moving the timeline...the timing of goals changes."

In agreement, Loncto said the October expectation was "overly ambitious" and more specifics would be needed to properly analyze what steps the board may or may not take for the 2013-2014 budget.

Morgan said the scenarios he expected to see were of a more general nature and not strictly dependent on the projections for the upcoming budget.

"I’m somewhat disappointed we are not meeting the goal we set," Morgan said. 

Based on early numbers provided by school administrators, should the district offer a zero percent tax increase it would need to reduce spending by just under $2.7 million.

In the past, Fishbein said any large reduction in spending could lead to the loss of dozens of instructors, clubs or athletic programs.

AMAMOM November 29, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Sorry I got hung up on the metaphor and didn't explain myself clearly. Here goes: Any BOE is restricted by Federal, State and Union regulations and agreements. A few examples, ADA, IDEA, NCLB and testing requirements. These requirements create fixed costs that the BOE cannot control. If healthcare costs are slated to go up by 5% every year by the Union agreement while special ed enrollment goes up 5% and anti bullying legislation is enacted the Board has no leeway, these have to be paid for and accounted . My point is that the board has very little control..... THE control lies in our state and federal governments. As government continues to grow, more and more legislation is passed it will cost us more money at every level... even down to the RBOE. So, is it realistic to think that we can do zero based budgeting without serious cuts..... not absolutely not. It's a great idea, just not realistic. The BOE is a microcosm of what is happening to our total economy.
maureen November 29, 2012 at 01:06 AM
I realize the taxpayers of Ridgewood are a captive audience and obviously a bottomless well of money . All of a sudden the new normal is 2% and that seems to be the floor as opposed to the ceiling. The BOE needs a reality check and Fishbein needs a pay cut. The only reasonable individual is Jim Morgan who is actually doing what we voted him in to do. Kudos to Jim .
Joseph Alvaro November 29, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Well, I say we just privatize our whole system and be done with state and fed regs. Turn the whole thing into a not for profit, end union contracts, hire and pay teachers according to supply and demand for their area of expertise.
Ridgewood Mom November 29, 2012 at 09:11 PM
There are towns setup with big houses, lousy schools and low tax rates if you prefer that sort of thing Joseph.
sandy February 25, 2013 at 09:47 PM
How come other local towns can come in under 2% w/o drastic cuts but 2% is the starting line for Ridgewood? Not everyone in Ridgewood is rolling in excess money as some of the board, and town citizens, seem to think. Their only response is "If you don't like it, MOVE."

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