With revenue and state aid continuing to go down in the River Edge school district combined with increases in expenditures, two teaching positions may have to be eliminated in order to create a balanced budget.
"There was no way this budget could be accommodated without problematic cuts," Superintendent Dr. Tova Ben Dov said. "This was an extremely difficult process that resulted in potential cuts. Given the uncertainties including state aid, this is not the final presentation of the budget."
The preliminary budget of $14,545,350 calls for a tax levy of $13,243,350 but had to include approximately $193,400 in cuts from eliminating one discovery lab teacher and the gifted and talented teacher to postponing eight buildings and grounds maintenance projects.
Those projects currently being pushed off to future years include repainting the Cherry Hill and Roosevelt school gymnasiums, replacement of classroom doors and fencing, new carpeting in four classrooms, replacing a gutter at the rear of Roosevelt School, three exterior door replacements, electrical outlet repairs and new outdoor lighting at Roosevelt.
"The total budget for the 2012-13 school year had to decrease by $80,000 and that is with a 2% increase in the tax levy line," Board Administrator Debbie Trainor said.
The entire proposed budget is dependent on the schools receiving up to $310,000 in state aid - less aid will result in additional cuts to the budget. Gov. Chris Christie will deliver his 2012 State of the Budget address sometime in February at which point the district will be informed of its state aid amount.
"There is no guarantee how much we will get so come February there is a 50-50 chance we'll have to sit here and find more cuts," Trainor added.
According to Ben Dov, the gifted and talented position is not a state mandated requirement, only to have the programming for students. If the position is eliminated after the current school year, Gifted and Talented services will instead be delivered through the main science teacher, a literacy coach and the district's two librarians.
"One luxury that River Edge had with the Discovery Lab is having two teachers," Ben Dov said. "Unless something changes, it's not something that could be supported in teh budget. The main science position will be used to facilitate consistency of programming in both schools, but the bulk of teaching will be done in the regular classroom. It was not an easy choice to make."
One thing though that is not included in the preliminary budget is funding for changes to teacher evaluations. The district is currently waiting to see what requirements the state plans to implement.
"If we don't receive the expected state aid, then everything is on the table," Board President Lucy DiMaulo said. "It's a significant amount of money to look at and it will be examined carefully to determine what cuts can be made with the least amount of impact on students."
The Board of Education was expected to continue their budget discussions during Wednesday night's meeting at Roosevelt School, 7:30pm. The Board is also expected to vote on moving the school election to November which would result in cost savings to the district.