Michael Rinderknecht doesn't seem to mind making history – only one school district in Bergen could claim not having raised taxes last year. That district was Glen Rock. And history is shaping up to repeat itself.
"We once again have no tax levy increase," Rinderknecht, the business administrator, proudly said in presenting his 2013-2014 draft budget to the school board. But don't be mistaken, he said, this is not a slice-and-dice maintenance budget.
The current school year's $40,022,000 general fund levy will repeat in 2013-2014, assuming aid figures remain flat. Rinderknecht is confident state aid will not deviate from the current offerings, he told the board.
The school board and fiscal management committee had no interest in paving a road to zero if it compromised programs, school board president Sheldon Hirschberg said.
Services and programs are growing and this budget reflects the commitment to push further, he remarked. Four additional full-time educators are included in the budget.
"We will be funding those programs," Hirschberg said. "That's our mission and that's very important."
A few simple but critical points led to the formation of the zero'd 2013-2014 draft budget, according to Rinderknecht.
Board members and administrators have a three-year budget plan/vision, which enables them to project future cost obligations.
And financially, it doesn't hurt that staff now pay higher levels into their pension and benefits – by 18 percent starting Jan. 1, 2014 – or that two special education students (totalling $180,000 in total) are leaving the district.
But the real key, Rinderknecht said, was the controversial decision to outsoure janitorial staff and teacher's aides.
"Outsourcing was absolutely a homerun," he commented. "We saved a million dollars on an annual basis."
The decision – hotly debated when it was presented two years ago – has freed up lunch aides, saving an annual $36,000. Benefits totalling $300,000 annually are also no longer budgetary concerns.
"Clearly these things mean a lot when it comes to working with a budget, particulary with a 2 percent cap," Rinderknecht said.
His statements came minutes after Aramark employees appealed to the board to support their quest to unionize for better pay, benefits and "respect". (Hirschberg told the workers their fight is with Aramark, not in Glen Rock.)
Rinderknecht declined to offer tax estimate information per household until state aid figures are cemented, likely to come on Feb. 28 in Gov. Christie's budget address.
The board must submit its budget to the county executive superintendent by March 7. The public budget hearing is scheduled for March 21.
Budget highlights, according to the business administrator, include:
-The addition of 4 full-time educators
-Building level budgets holding flat
-The hiring of a security staff member for the middle school/high school
-Fund balance increasing from $870,000 to $1.3 million
-Retirement breakage saving $139,000, equating to 3 full-time positions
-The budget would be $1.8 million higher if not for the board banking savings
-Operations committee has not yet determined capital projects for 2013-2014
-The cap bank will be $1.77 million assuming no change in the general fund balance
-Flat debt service aid, pending state aid figures
-Extraordinary aid declining by $18,657