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$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 .

"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 .

School officials, though, said the 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 , 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 , who previously held the position,

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.

Will Rod March 29, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Earlier this year the patch reported: {West Orange schools will see a bump in state aid for the 2012-13 school year, state officials announced Thursday. The district is slated to receive a total of $6,809,707 in aid, a roughly 15 percent increase from last year's $5.8 million. "It's absolutely good news," said Laura Lab, West Orange Board of Education President. She said the additional $916,170 in aid was "substantial" and a "game changer."} If you read the above article, now its a "small uptick". Since when is $900K a small uptick. So in a year in which WO is slated to get $900k in additional aid, the operating budget is increasing from $124.5 million to $129 million or 3.6% and our taxes are increasing. The tax levy would have exceeded the 2% cap had it not been for the additional state aid. Rather than provide property tax relief we are getting a language arts supervisor (not a teacher) and robotics class. This was a real opportunity to hold the line on spending and the BOE blew it. Does anyone else see the absurdity?! We are need to wake up and vote for a change in leadership at the BOE. This is getting ridiculous.
Tom G. March 29, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I couldn't agree more. A mddle school robotics class is completely absurd. So many students can't even get passing grades on standardized tests, yet we can teach them robotics?? If the public was allowed to vote on this budget and actually have a say in how their hard earned money is spent, this budget never would have passed. Instead, the school board is essentially working with an unlimited supply of money by simply raising everyone's taxes.
Adam Kraemer March 30, 2012 at 01:57 AM
I was at the budget hearing and I spoke about the problems with the budget. I was the only opposition speaker. If we don't really push our the elected Board Members to be Fiscally responsible they will not be fiscally responsible. We can remind them of this at the ballot box in November.
Adam Kraemer March 30, 2012 at 10:56 AM
Employee benefits are listed at over $21,375,128. That works out to about $20,000 per employee. GM did that it went into chapter 11. American Airlines is doing that it is in chapter 11 now. While teaching and working for a school should not mean taking a vow of poverty the unions need some accommodation with the taxpayers in this regard. The employee benefits are generous to an unsustainable level. Also they are more then listed because much of the employee benefits flow thru as unfunded liabilities to tax payers in future years.
Will Rod March 30, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Ok, so I finally had a chance to review this years budget presentation. According to the documents on the BOE website, last year's proposed tax levy was $114.5 Million. This year its $119 Million. Thats a 3.93% increase. What am I missing? Last year's budget was supposed to be $132.5 Million and the BOE was patting themselves on the back for making cuts. Well it looks like they actually spent $135 Million. They then used the $135 M (not the $132.5) to show an increase this year to $139 M, a "only" 3.17% increase. If they used the original $132.5 (which we voted on), the budget has increase 4.9%. Look at the budget! There was a 6.76% increase in Principals/Admin & support. $410,379! Did you get a raise of almost 7% this year?! Salaries in the School Sponsored Athletics increased $136,000 or 22%. Salaries for school sponsored extra-curr activives increased $117,000 or 48%. Just looking at this for 10 mins and I see $660,000 in salary increases. Im tired of people saying its for the kids. Its not always for the kids. How is this legal?? I dont understand how this puts us under the 2% cap.
john anthony prignano March 30, 2012 at 06:46 PM
School Board members have decided a fair rate of compensation for a 40 year old teacher with a bachelors degree is $150 for every hour required by contract . We've alll heard the cliche from teachers "We come early and stay late " There are dozens more curriculum mandates than when I was in school We absolutely need a longer school day: The Bridgewater - Raritan schedule is built around 40 minute classes Teachers teach for 200 minutes a day . That's the lowest in the County . The Union says they offered to provide more pupil - contact time , but the School Board President said that was for a tutorial period, rather than classroom teaching . The School Board President says the Union sought 2.85% salary increases in each of the three years of the contract and would settle for 2.5% if the Board dropped its call for more classroom teaching . Confronted by increased curriculum mandates West Orange has greatly reduced the amount of teacher classroom hours . Of course the teachers are going to say they care. Of course the School Board is going to say the children are their number one priority . But inaction speaks louder than words . If the teachers " come early and stay late " why not put it in the contract ? The School Board wants to ensure that teachers have plenty of money, ample time for political activism { look at Joe D. and.the Essex County Freeholder Board } AND plenty of time to moonlight . Total frauds .
Adam Kraemer March 30, 2012 at 10:55 PM
You are right the tax payers did not fair well in the process
Will Rod March 31, 2012 at 05:49 PM
The budget is still not posted on the BOE website. The only place you can see it is here on Patch. The only logical conclusion was the BOE didn't want us to see the budget prior to it being approved. Now its too late. Well its not too late. Remember this at the election. End the reign of tax and spend. Restore fiscal constraint to our school system and town. Help make WO affordable again. Help yourself. Vote!
john anthony prignano March 07, 2013 at 08:15 PM
2011 New Jersey School Report Card - Over the last 3 years,average salaries for New Jersey teachers rose 7%. West Orange teacher salaries rose 14% - double. Over the last 3 years, average New jersey Administrator salaries rose 1% .West Orange Administrator salaries rose 1% BUT the average West Orange Administrator salary is $131.716 with 13 years of service . The State average Administrator salary is $119,491 with 19 years of service.The State average percentage of the budget which is devoted to teacher compensation is 57%. West Orange spends 63% of the budget on teacher compensation, AND West Orange spends more than 20% over the average New Jersey cost per - pupil amount. WOHS provides 14 days LESS instructional time than the State average. Seniors at the High School average 19.1 days absent, which is .9 days under the allowable limit. They get an additional 5 days to visit colleges and universities they are considering attending. Every year,more hours are committed to social engineering subjects which means fewer hours are left for core - curriculum subjects. NO ONE sincere about providing a quality education to their students would demand { and get } fewer and fewer instructional hours.The West Orange public school system does not exist to educate its students,and there is NOTHING " for the kids "
Scott March 07, 2013 at 08:51 PM
I have to agree that the Middle School robotics idea is off the hook! "Robot Revolution" in South Orange (http://bit.ly/16c2wq5) is available to anyone with an interest in robotics and an aptitude for engineering; middle schoolers so inclined can learn about Lego Mindstorms toys and games to their heart's content (bit.ly/5yrDgN). Why does the BOE (and the Town Council, for that matter) assume that the overtaxed property owners of West Orange are a bottomless bag of money able to provide for every student's passing fancy? Livingston has a privately-funded skatepark; the majority of our Town Council decided that a petition signed by 300 kids wanting a skatepark was enough to warrant building one at Degnan Park at the taxpayers' expense. South Orange has "Robot Revolution" but the BOE would rather fund "everybody-gets-Lego-Mindstorms" at taxpayers' expense. When does it end? Why can't we just concentrate on developing basic skills before wasting tax money on frivolous stuff? For the money taxpayers are forced to spend, the school ratings are atrocious - fix that first.
john anthony prignano March 07, 2013 at 10:22 PM
The Verona 2013 - 2014 school budget increases spending by 2.5%. But it is not over the 2% cap, because the State grants cap waivers for a variety of reasons, primarily for the ever rising cost of healthcare . But getting a waiver is a double - edged sword. While the monies may help school districts with higher expenses,the cost must be passed on to the taxpayer. Waiver monies cannot be refunded to the taxpayers, even if the monies aren't spent. So even though Verona's budget rose 2.5%, it is still under the 2% cap, because waiver monies aren't counted against the cap. As a matter of fact,the only time the waiver monies are counted is WHEN WE PAY OUR TAX BILLS. And if all the waiver monies aren't spent, don't look for a refund, IT'S AGAINST THE LAW. Today's math lesson is; A school budget can have more than a 2% increase, and still not be above the 2% cap. In fact, a school budget increase can be way above the 2% spending cap, and still be well below the 2% spending cap. Waivers, exemptions, emergency appropriations, etc.etc.. Today's reality check; There is no 2% cap. .
john anthony prignano March 07, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Per - pupil spending in West Orange went from $15k+ to $21k+ in an instant, with no change in the amount of money being spent. Years ago, when I would look at teacher attendance figures, the absentee numbers did not include; extended absences, pre - approved absences, emergency personal days, etc. In other words, if a teacher were absent all year, their attendance rate would not be zero, it would be 100% West Orange schools used to use the Iowa standardized test. Then it was exposed that every student taking the Iowa test is rated above average when compared to every other student who took the test. In 1994 I ran for office. I couldn't get a copy of the municipal budget from the Clerk's office.He couldn't make me a copy, because he'd given all of them away. He said there was a copy of the budget in the Library. In that copy, every police officer below the rank of sergeant made the exact same base pay, regardless of years of service.Plus, there were several large expenditures not listed.How many times have we seen someone get up and speak and quote numbers provided by government entities,only to be told those numbers are not correct.Recently,I quoted some teacher salaries I had obtained from a website. I was immediately corrected by someone.The salary figures on the website are provided by the official reporting agency, the West Orange Public School System. Knowledge is power, that's why obtaining knowledge from the people in possession of that knowledge is so difficult.

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