The proposed 2011-12 school budget won easy approval by the Board of Education Tuesday night during a public hearing at the district offices.
The recent controversy over Superintendent LeRoy Seitz's contract was not a subject of discussion at the meeting, which kept the gathering largely peaceful. After a few questions from members of the audience, the board quickly voted to adopt the plan.
"I'm excited about the budget," board member Andrew Choffo said. "I think it's fiscally responsible and maintains all our programs and will allow us to continue on the path we started on three years ago."
Asked why the issue of the superintendent's salary did not arise, Choffo chalked it up to the absence of naysayers. Board members Michael Strumolo and Robert Crawford, who made four unsuccessful attempts to have Seitz's contract rescinded, did not attend the hearing.
"I think the governor's spokesman's recent statement that the situation was resolved also quelled the comments," Choffo added.
Last Friday, governor's office spokesman Michael Drewniak said in an emailed statement that because Morris County Superintendent Kathleen Serafino cut Seitz's salary by $2,462 and then approved the budget, the district's spending plan "is now in compliance with the governor's salary cap regulations."
The spending plan would allocate $129.8 million for the next school year, a decrease of $753,249 from the revised 2010-11 budget. If approved by voters, the plan will require a 0.8 percent property tax hike for homeowners, which translates to an average increase of approximately $130.
Considering the economic climate and generally rising costs, Superintendent LeRoy Seitz noted that the school board took on a daunting task—maintaining classroom quality while minimizing tax impact—and largely succeeded.
"We're in good financial condition today because of the decisions the board made over the last three to five years," he said.
The 2011-12 spending plan calls for no cutbacks in programs of instruction, sports teams, busing routes or co-curricular programs. Additionally, there will be an increase in the use of technology in classrooms. Seitz noted that iPads will be used by schools as curriculum tools and, ultimately, to save money on textbooks.
"The idea," he said, "is to make education more relevant to how students learn today."
The budget features several measures to contain costs and to do more with less. Among them: keeping more special education students within the district to save on tuition costs, reducing senior administrator salaries by $50,000 and cutting insurance costs by $30,000. Meanwhile, the plan includes cuts from prior year levels in energy costs, communication and telephone expenses and unemployment payments.
The superintendent pointed out some areas of increase. A capital outlay of $1.1 million is neeeded for essential roof repairs at Parsippany High School. Health benefits will cost the district an additional $760,568, an increase of 4.9 percent over 2010-11 levels.
Additional paraprofessionals must be brought in to assist the larger number of in-district special education students, to the tune of just over $529,000. Payroll processing for school employees, which used to be free of charge, must now be paid for, and this will cost the district $84,000. And due to the termination of a shared services arrangement with the township, athletic field maintenance will now cost schools $70,000.
A number of areas did not increase or decrease, including costs for fuel, bus maintenance, technology, sports and co-curricular programs, and water and sewer. Seitz shared that water and sewer were projected to see a $60,000 increase, however negotiations with Mayor James R. Barberio brought the increase down to zero.
The budget's adoption pleases Board President Anthony Mancuso, who remarked, "With all that's been going on, I'm relieved."
The spending plan now goes to the taxpayers, who will vote on whether to accept the budget during the township's annual school election on April 27. The budget is expected to be available for viewing beginning Wednesday on the BOE website.
In addition to the spending plan, citizens will vote for new school board members. Parsippany-Troy Hills residents can hear what the nine candidates have to say on the issues at a Candidates' Night at Central Middle School. The event will be held Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m.