$139 Million School Budget Approved
Budget reflects lowest tax rate increase in 11 years
The school budget for 2012-13 passed without a hitch Wednesday night after garnering unanimous approval from the board of education.
Officials touted the roughly $139 million total budget that for the first time in three years includes no layoffs and maintains all program and services.
Last year, the budget cut classroom electives and eliminated 24 staff positions.
"I am happy and supportive of the budget," said board president Laura Lab. "We sought the best possible budget to give our kids the best possible education and still be conscious of our taxpayers."
The public did not vote on the budget this year following the board's decision to move school elections to November.
School officials, though, said the $129 million operating budget with a $119 million tax levy will provide the lowest tax increase in 11 years.
"We're in a much better fiscal position this year," business administrator Mark Kenney said. "We have very positive changes from last year's austere budget."
For an average home assessed at $339,000, Kenney said the tax increase will be $92.75 with a 1.3 percent tax rate.
The district received $6.8 million in state aid this year, a small uptick from last year's, officials said, allowing the district to maintain current staffing levels.
The budget actually includes funding for more than a dozen positions and restores the language arts supervisor for K-8. The firing of Deborah Bartley-Carter, who previously held the position, caused a firestorm from residents opposed to her layoff.
Residents Wednesday questioned the board on whether Bartley-Carter would have have recall rights once the job was posted.
Board attorney Stephen Christiano said Bartley-Carter did not have tenure and therefore no recall rights.
Board member Megan Brill said since the position was eliminated last May, "we realized we really needed to staff that position."
The budget also includes $2.5 million in capital improvements, funding for a middle school robotics course, intervention programs and technology upgrades.
Kenney said that while the budget is "over-adequacy" compared to the average standards set by the state, West Orange schools are different than their state-wide counterparts and have additional programs and different needs.