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BOE Approves Preliminary Budget for 2012-13

The budget represents a 2.74 percent tax levy increase over last year's budget. The public will be able to voice its opinion March 29.

The  approved its preliminary budget for the 2012-2013 school year at a special meeting Tuesday night convened specifically for that topic. By approving, the members set the maximum amount the budget can be, although it can still be reduced or adjusted before it is adopted.

Before discussion began, Superintendent LeRoy Seitz explained that he was asking the board to approve a budget of more than $128 million at an increase of 2.74 percent with a tax levy revenue increase of more than $3 million over the 2011-2012 budget. This would cost the average homeowner about $114.69 in taxes.

This amount is slightly increased from the over the last few months – the most immediately previous version representing a 2.3 percent tax increase – due to an additional $500,000 that has been added to address certain topics.

Seitz explained that the budget is not simply rolled over from the previous year with money added here and there. Instead, the district starts with a clean slate, or what Seitz deemed a “zero-based budget.”

However, when establishing the budget's parameters, Seitz said he and the board agreed in November to maintain all current instructional and co-curricular programs and most staff positions.

The notable staff position exception is kindergarten paraprofessionals. At a previous meeting, Seitz had explained that, due to state accountability regulations, the district can no longer have kindergarten paraprofessionals unless class size exceeds 25 students.

“In talking to our principals, it is very clear to me that the loss of those paraprofessionals is going to have a significant impact on how we run our kindergarten classes, how we instruct our students and the amount of time we can devote to the instruction of our students,” Seitz said.

He said the $500,000 is intended to help the board find alternate ways to compensate for the loss of these 24 paraprofessionals, who were each making up to $20,000 per year. 

[Editor's note: The figure, originally stated as $27,000, was corrected.]

Part of the additional money will be devoted to addressing class size issues.

According to the school district class size policy, 25 students is the maximum size permissible for kindergarten through fifth grade. However, parents of students at Troy Hills Elementary School .

Seitz said he and the policy committee are already looking for ways to fix the problem, having met with two principals earlier in the day. He said he plans to meet with more next week.

In addition to these two issues, Seitz said some of the other drivers that led to the total budget increase of $2.4 million from last year include new staff positions, health benefits increasing by 6.3 percent and the purchase of new technology.

The budget was approved by all but two board members, Susy Golderer and Michael Strumolo.

Earlier in the evening, Strumolo made a motion to have a forensic accountant come in and audit the budget line-by-line before it is accepted.

Board member Debbie Orme spoke against the audit, citing that a forensic audit would likely cost more than the $80,000 allotted to the district’s annual audit.

Board Administrator Mark Resnick explained that a forensic audit is much more in-depth and takes longer than the three months the annual audit takes. He added that it is difficult to guess what the cost would be.

Board President Frank Calabria said it has been a long time since the board has had a forensic audit of the budget. In fact, he said that was back when the district’s budgets were around $40 million.

“I have concerns that we’re going to spend $120,000 on it,” Calabria said.

The superintendent also suggested against attempting a forensic audit now as they can really be done only after a budget has been adopted.

The board ultimately decided to have the finance committee look into how much such an audit would cost and to report back at the board’s next meeting.

“By that time, hopefully we can have some numbers and not shoot from the hip at the numbers,” Golderer said. “This is the taxpayer’s money, and I don’t want to play with it.”

The preliminary budget must be submitted to the executive county superintendent for review by March 5. There will then be a public hearing, where the board will also vote to approve and finalize the budget, on March 29.

This will be the first year the budget will not go to a public vote , which also moves the school board elections to November.

The next Board of Education meeting takes place March 8 at 7 p.m. at the Administration Building, 292 Parsippany Road.

Bob Crawford March 02, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Something about the BOE's Preliminary Budget doesn't add up which is worrisome given the hope that the Superintendent would be pretty good at arithmetic. Currently, there is much debate about the quality of the two high school football fields and the tracks with some proponents of the FOD declaring them to be unsafe and barely usable. If that is even remotely true then the Superintendent has the responsibility to advise the BOE of that reality and the BOE has the responsibility to immediately address the issue(s) by allocating the required funds. That wasn't done while preparing the just presented Preliminary Budget which can only lead to the conclusion that the Superintendent and the BOE believe that the fields and tracks are safe and usable. If that is true then why is the Mayor hell bent on spending $4.5 million of tax payer dollars to fix a problem that the BOE appears not to believe exists. Something doesn't add up but Town Hall and the BOE don't seem to be interested in doing the math to solve the problem. I wonder why
PatchLover March 02, 2012 at 01:18 PM
I would like to know where are they making cuts? We all are making cuts in our personal spending to keep up with higher gas prices and no salary increases or 2% increases. BOE needs to think about how will they manage if there is no increase allowed? I agree with Bob, where is the spending for the fields if they are in need of immediate repairs and if there is a safety concern? Remember, everyone needs to sacrifice here and that includes BOE too.
joe raich March 02, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Bob: where's the spike in the inhouse maintenance budget 2013 so FOD can be remediated where it really belong at the BOE? Guess we'll have elections for trustees and a budgetary decision by the electorate on April 17.
Bob Crawford March 02, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Joe The budget will not be voted on because given the BOE's recent decision it falls withing the mandated and augmented cap and so will automatically be approved once the Board cast it's vote later this month. The April election for the three Board seats which will open up will now be held in November. As for the spike in the 2013 budget to cover the possibly needed field improvements -it's not there
Donna Jo Tanner March 04, 2012 at 03:05 AM
The BOE is in contract negotiations with teachers and perhaps other unions - I haven't seen any approved contracts come out yet. But I'll bet the teachers are expecting their usual 4% increases - not something we can afford any longer. With a 2% cap and salaries making up 85% of the budget we cannot afford to give 4% increases. The BOE has to take a tough stand in these negotiations -- the shared sacrifice has to come from the group with the biggest share. And they make plenty already! With top notch benefits too!
Liz March 04, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Donna, With all due respect, not all teachers get a 4% increase when a contract is settled. In addition to that, all public workers, including teachers, participate in a "shared sacrifice". Take a look at the cost increase over 4 years thanks to Chapter 78.
Vickie Walsh March 05, 2012 at 05:53 PM
The information contained in this article is not accurate. Kindergarten paraprofessionals do not earn $27,000 per year. The salary range for this profession is $18,786 to $20,352 for the 2012-2013 school year. These individuals are the only individuals who do not receive health insurance benefits from the Board of Education. In addition the state accountability regulations do not require the district to let the kindergarten paraprofessionals go. This is a misuse and misinterpretation of N..J.A.C. 6A:23A Fiscal Accountability, Efficiency, and Budgeting regulations. The only requirement under these regulations is for the Superintendent to justify the need for paraprofessionals in classrooms with under 25 students. These dedicated professionals are a vital part of the educational program for Kindergarten students. Without these individuals the program will be seriously compromised.
Natalie Davis (Editor) March 05, 2012 at 06:33 PM
The $27,000 figure was what the superintendent stated at the BOE hearing, just so you know where the reporter found his information.
Natalie Davis (Editor) March 05, 2012 at 08:55 PM
And a quick check shows that Dr. Seitz was referring to instructional paraprofessionals when he stated the $27,000 figure. According to the collective bargaining agreement now in place, instructional paras, not kindergarten paras, can make as much as $27,000.
Frank Drebin March 05, 2012 at 09:45 PM
The Parsippany-Troy Hills School District aims to improve its technology program by purchasing $415,000 worth of computers and other hand-held devices, such as iPads. Is this included in the overpaid Superintendents budget, or is this another Parsippany no bid project?
VietNam Vet March 06, 2012 at 08:41 AM
I would like to know what is the board going to do about the $5 million dollar surplus it had from last years budget? Does Lee Sietz have a contract at this time? I think it would be a good thing for the townspeople to know, if he has a legal contract and the overcharging on our taxes by the schools, because if you have a surplus like you had said last year, that means we are being overcharged on our taxes and your still asking for more. Is this another bonus to Sietz? When is he going to do the right thing by the "Kids" and give back the $38,000 dollars he has been overpaid?
William March 08, 2012 at 12:49 AM
I have a question...this is a 2.74 percent increase, since that is over the 2 percent cap doesnt that mean it has to be voted on by parsippany residents?
Frank Drebin March 08, 2012 at 02:05 AM
If the residents are able to vote, and turn it down the Town Council will hold a closed door meeting and approve it anyway
Natalie Davis (Editor) March 08, 2012 at 02:13 AM
William, no. Since the increase last year was well below 2 percent, the statute allows the board a larger increase for this budget without triggering a vote.
Donna Jo Tanner March 08, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Unfortunately, last year they had to get the budget past a vote - so Dr. Seitz developed a prudent budget. This year he has free reign and guess what - he's using this year's 2% plus some of last year's banked leftover percentage. The only way for him to hear the public is to show up at the board meeting and speak out at the public comments portion. The next meeting is tonight at 7pm at the BOE building.
Natalie66 March 10, 2012 at 12:23 AM
I agree with Donna.. this guy is insane and arrogant. First he lets teachers go.. then he negotiated his contract and give himself a hefty raise- the hell with the teachers, they are unnecessary- his paycheck is more important than anything else.. now he is embarking on a shopping spree (with our money) to buy ipads????? this guy is sick!!!!! wake up people.. he needs to be kicked out.
Natalie66 March 10, 2012 at 12:35 AM
oops.. *gave.. my apologies!
Natalie66 March 10, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Seitz will not give anything back. He is greedy and arrogant remember? That darn Christie was right all along... the kids??? he laughs out our kids and us poor fools.. he has a nice paying jobs.. too bad for those he fired and terminated for no reason.

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