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.