The South Orange - Maplewood Board of Education passed a $104,473,642 preliminary budget for 2013-14 on Monday night. After impassioned discussion, members Beth Daugherty, Sandra Karriem, Lynne E. Crawford, David R. Giles, and Andrea Wren-Hardin voted for the budget; Jeff Bennett, Wayne Eastman, and Madhu Pai voted against. Bill Gaudelli was absent.
The total tax impact, known as the "all in" total is 2.93%, which translates into a tax increase of at least $199 for an "average" Maplewood household and $212 for an "average" South Orange household. (Cheryl Schneider, District Business Administrator, explained that the "average" household home used for calculations is one assessed at $422,000 in Maplewood and at $460,000 in South Orange.)
Board member Wayne Eastman proposed an unsuccessful amendment that would limit the tax levy to two percent. Members Eastman, Jeff Bennett, and Madhu Pai supported the amendment; all other members voted against it.
Bennett proposed an amendment that would reduce district-paid travel for professional development from $150,000 to $125,000. Members Eastman, Bennett, and Pai supported the amendment; all other members voted against it.
. It also allows $589,000 to convert the Maplewood Middle School home economics room into a technology lab, among other projects.
This is the first year that the Board of Education does not submit their budget to the Board of School Estimate. Thus the Board sets the tax levy.
Board member Wayne Eastman was in the minority in saying he felt the increase should stay at two percent. "We have to be really careful," he said about budgeting in response to interest groups. He noted that this is "a huge budget, with hundreds of items in it." He added, "There is no one magic program, no single missing program that will bring us down."
which is the same for the 2013-14 year as in this year. The district will receive $4,075,898.
Numerous Board of Education members credited both Superintendent Brian Osborne and Schneider for their "time and effort," while expressing dismay at the totals. "There are some very difficult cuts being made," said Giles.
Andrea Wren-Harden noted that this year is the first that the Board of Education not only approves the budget, but sets the tax levy. "I am not happy with the personnel cuts and reductions, but I realize they have to be made," she said, expressing confidence that the administration will be aware of the impact of those cuts.
Bennett opposed the budget, suggesting that he has found budget areas where the district spending is "significantly" over other local districts, and other areas where the district spending is marginally above peer districts. He asked for a limit of two percent. He noted that district transportation spending is significant, and "we need to look at that going forward."
Board President Beth Daugherty noted that the next years will bring additional fiscal challenges. She further noted that transportation studies don't suggest the level of savings Bennett seeks.
Pai echoed a call for a two-percent limit on tax impacts. "For the future of our towns, we have to have a strong school district," said Pai, "but we have to keep our towns financially viable."
Osborne noted that "the budget is submitted with the deepest respect for the taxpayer impact." He further noted that a "painful" cut is the loss of curriculum specialist positions. Members of the public and teaching colleagues agreed, addressing the Board in support of the specialists.
What happens next:
March 5: BOE will present preliminary budget to the Maplewood Township Committee
March 11: BOE will present preliminary budget to South Orange Village Board of Trustees
March 18: Regular BOE meeting
March 27: BOE public hearing and action on the 2013-14 school tax levy
More budget information can be found on the district's website.