Monday night, the Livingston Board of Education approved a $104 million 2012-2013 budget that Superintendent Dr. Brad Draeger called “a very fiscally responsible budget.”
Draeger said additional state funding helped reduce the tax impact on Livingston residents.
The board received $917,527 in mid-February 2011 from the state. Of that money, $700,000 was used for technology in last year’s budget. The remaining money carried over to this year’s budget. In addition, the state allocated an additional $917,527 last July, which was also carried over to the new budget.
During the public portion of the meeting, residents addressed the board, voicing their concerns about the budget and the status of (teacher) contract negotiations.
Dan Kaplan of Westmount Drive addressed the council expressing concerns regarding several budget items.
“The contract negotiation process has now been in process for more than a year and a quarter with virtually no information sharing with the public,” said Kaplan. “At what point does the public's right to know supercede the confidentiality of the negotiations? What are the latest offers from both sides and what are the latest offers from both sides and what process is in place to settle this contract in a timely manner?”
“What percentage in teacher salaries is included in all line items of the new school budget? Does this include retroactive pay to cover the current school year contract once this is ratified?” he asked.
In total Kaplan presented 10 questions to the board about various budget issues.
“These are very well thought-out questions and we need to take a look and provide a very thorough answer,” Draeger said. “A lot of the questions center around the labor negotiations laws that surround New Jersey and we are not able to answer those because providing answers could be considered an unfair labor practice. We can post all of the questions on the website and provide very thorough answers for the questions that we can address.”
Kaplan is a former board president of the Roseland Board of Education but said he was attending the budget hearing as a concerned citizen.
“As a former board member for another district I have been involved in a number of school negotiations,” said Kaplan. “I find it disturbing that we are more than halfway into a new school year and still do not have contracts with the teacher’s union.”
Stan Graboski of Beverly Road, a former Livingston Board of Education member, also questioned the board.
“Some of the items such as increases in special education concern me and some of the energy savings have not been projected yet. I am very interested in the projected energy savings specifically from the solar panels,” said Graboski. “Overall I think it's a fair and equitable budget.”
A breakdown of the funds indicated that:
• 92.4% comes from district taxes
• 3.2% from state aid
• 2% from special revenue
• 1.2% miscellaneous
•1.2% from fund Balance Appropriation
Of the $104,286,065 for the budget:
• 71.9% will go to instructional support services
• 7.6% to operations and plant maintenance
• 6.4% to debt service
• 6.1% to general and school administration
• 3% to business and other support services
• 2.9% to capital outlay
• 2.1% to student transportation