During a public hearing for the 2023-24 Montclair school district budget on Wednesday, district administrators announced they were still working on settling a $5.5 million deficit in the budget, which will be presented to the Board of Education for final approval on May 15.

The district will spend the next week and a half looking at areas for additional budget reductions, specifically in the central office, the pupil services department and schools that need to enhance efficiencies – Montclair High School, Glenfield Middle School, Renaissance at Rand Middle School, Hillside School and Nishuane School – while also considering attrition. 

Administrators did not provide details about anticipated nonrenewal numbers.

In March, the district shared a preliminary budget for the 2023-24 year, projecting $138,858,260 in revenue and $146,404,430 in expenses, leaving a preliminary deficit of $7,546,170. Leading up to the Wednesday meeting, budget reductions were made in several categories – including out-of-district tuitions, transportation and health benefits – totaling $2,096,577. Nearly half the reductions involved finding ways to cover salaries with grants and special revenue streams, instead of using the general fund.

The remaining deficit totals $5,449,593.

The board’s finance and budget committee met several times with the Montclair Education Association and the Montclair Principals Association over the past couple months to discuss the budget, committee chair Melanie Deysher said at the Wednesday meeting. The most recent committee meeting notes posted to the district website, dated March 23, show two budget meetings in March with the unions and district administrators. The committee also met with the unions three times in late April, Deysher said at the meeting.

“The intention is to build the budget as collaboratively and as transparently as possible,” Deysher said. 

But at the March 20 meeting, Cathy Kondreck, the Montclair Education Association president, said the union had not been given an adequate seat at the table, despite their requests.

And at the Wednesday meeting, Kondreck said she was unaware how the remaining deficit would be handled.

“What is being submitted to the board for approval, and ultimately to the state for approval regarding the budget, is not something that we have either heard or seen yet,” Kondreck said at the Wednesday meeting. “As I stated at the March BOE meeting, the MEA will never agree to nonrenewals being the answer to a budget deficit.”

Last spring, the district had to resolve a $3 million budget deficit, and the district issued 83 nonrenewal letters to district staff – 48 to paraprofessionals and 35 to teachers. The cuts received backlash from the Montclair Education Association and families, concerned about how the cuts would affect learning in the district. By fall 2023, every teacher issued a nonrenewal notice had received a new offer from the district, but many had already accepted jobs elsewhere, Kondreck said.

Beginning the school year with a period of old employees being hired back and new employees being hired at the last minute caused the district to start the year in a deficit, Kondreck said at the Wednesday meeting. The nonrenewal decisions made it seem like the administration had not considered all avenues when balancing the budget, she said.

“A very wise person once said to me, ‘a budget is made to highlight and prioritize your values,’” Kondreck said at the Wednesday meeting. “What do you value? What does the district value? What do we as a community value? Next week, our values will be exposed for everyone to see. I hope we can be proud of what is exhibited.”


At the Wednesday meeting, only two of three public comments addressed the budget hearing. 

Parent Andrew Gideon said he felt concerned about the scheduling of the public meetings around the budget.

“At this point, we are looking at just shy of $5.5 million in cuts still to be made,” Gideon said. “Whatever happens is going to be approved at the next meeting, and we have no idea what that whatever happens is going to be.”

In supporting the switch to a Type II school system in 2021, Gideon said he was hoping for more transparency and communication, with the budget process falling to the district, not a board of school estimate.

“It's certainly not the sort of process for which I was hoping when we shifted,” Gideon said.

And with only a week and a half to approve the 2023-24 final budget, Gideon is looking to future budget seasons. 

“I would urge you, please, to make a schedule for next year where the public is more involved and certainly more informed,” Gideon said. 

Parent Obie Miranda-Woodley asked that the diversity of staff at Nishuane School be maintained.

“It’s so important that staff reflect the student diversity,” Miranda-Woodley said. “They need to  see people who look like them and share similar cultural and ethnic values.”

Miranda-Woodley was part of an effort at Nishuane several years ago to diversify staff, and “we were heard,” she said. 

“Please make sure that these teachers remain in the district, specifically at Nishuane,” Miranda-Woodley said. 

Last year, Miranda-Woodley also spoke at a board meeting during budget season, also   advocating for the importance of staff diversity. 

Her daughter had been nervous to wear her hair naturally to school after a classmate harassed her about it, Miranda-Woodley said at the May 12, 2022 board meeting. But her daughter finally got up the courage to wear her hair naturally.

Miranda-Woodley said she emailed her daughter’s teacher explaining the situation and how her daughter’s choosing to wear her hair naturally was a big deal.

After school, Miranda-Woodley’s daughter came home and said she and her teacher had been “hair twins” that day and that the teacher told her she looked beautiful, Miranda-Woodley said. 

“Representation matters, and I really hope that we do not lose the diversity in our schools and the staff,” she said.


The amount set to be raised by taxes is $128,008,540 for 2023-24. The tax levy for 2022-23 was $125,498,569.

The district is projecting $138,858,260 in general fund revenues – $128,303,640 from local sources, $10,457,817 from state sources and $96,803 from federal sources; $7,509,399 in special revenue funds – $300,000 from local sources, $3,059,556 from state sources, $3,607,335 from federal sources and $542,508 from other sources; and $2,241,991 in debt service funds – $1,512,652 from local sources and $729,339 from state sources.

Total net revenue, including general and special funds, totals $148,067,142. 


Salaries make up 61% of the district’s expenses, totaling $84,048,016. Benefits are the next largest category, 18% of expenses, totaling $25,440,986. Other expense categories include transportation, totaling $8,849,485; facilities, totaling $7,129,374; tuitions, totaling $6,742,711; and other, totaling $6,647,688.

The 2023-24 general fund expenses for instruction are projected to decrease by more than $3 million from the 2022-23 school year. The biggest changes are a decrease in regular program instruction spending of $2,750,105 and a decrease in special education instruction spending of $425,565. Additional decreases in spending affect vocational programs instruction and other instructional program instruction. 

The proposed budget increases spending for basic skills and remedial instruction, bilingual education instruction, school-sponsored co-curricular or extracurricular activities instruction and school-sponsored athletics instruction. 

Funding for before- and after-school programs, other supplemental and at-risk programs, and community services programs operations will remain consistent. 

The district is also projecting a $465,487 increase in support service expenses – $86,076,296 for the 2023-24 year, compared with to $85,610,809 for 2022-23 year. Support services include costs for child study teams, guidance counselors, student transportation services and more. 

The 2023-24 user-friendly budget is available on the district website