Last night the Village Council voted to reduce the schools' tax levy by $100,000. This was based on the Board of Education's suggestion. (Well, after we suggested that they cut nothing, and it didn't sound like that idea was going anywhere.) Board President Michele Lenhard said last night that $100,000 could be trimmed from the transportation line on the budget. This means no further staff cuts...no cuts of librarians...no cut of 5th grade music...no cut of Learning Disabled Teachers...and those other things that were on the potential cut list.
Where did this $100,000 come from? When the District created the budget, they included an estimate for transportation, based on an educated "guess" (and historical trends) as to how much bus rates are going to go up. Bus rate increases must be approved by the state, and the state doesn't give the rate increase until after our budget vote. (Just another state practice that makes no sense.) So our budget included an increase of 5% in bus charges. Then, late last week, the state finally approved the new bus rate increase, and it's 0%. Revising our transportation line in the budget resulted in about $100,000 savings. This is what was offered to the VC as a way they could (symbolically, some would argue) cut the budget without affecting jobs.
Finally the District can get to work finalizing staff changes and reorganizing departments to cope with all the changes brought about by our staff cuts. It's going to take a lot of work to combine some supervisor jobs, fill holes from retirements, and figure out how remaining staff are going to pick up the tasks and responsibilities left when positions were eliminated.
Also at last night's meeting, the Board agreed to conditionally give our support to New Jersey's Race to The Top grant application. There is so much that is vague in the state's plan, and we are being rushed to sign on without answers to a lot of questions and with many things that will require legislative changes which may or may not occur. We decided that we want Ridgewood to be part of the conversation...to be part of the solutions in improving education in New Jersey...so we will yes with many conditions -- primarily 1) we will not participate if the costs to implement exceed the grant money Ridgewood would receive; and 2) we reserve the right to withdraw if the program is not making sense for Ridgewood.
Other business last night: The Board approved several staff changes, including the retirements of several long-time staff members, including: Elizabeth Bennett (3rd grade Travell, 16 years), Diane Callaghan (secretary, 22 years), Karen Fisher (2nd grade Travell, 37 years), Carol Savitscus (3rd grade Travell, 16 years) and Garland Allen (Director of Wellness, 11 years).
And, finally, the Board approved the Parent Survey, scheduled to take place by around June 1. (More info on that to come soon!)
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