Montclair schools expect staff cuts as preliminary budget is approved
Montclair has approved its preliminary school budget, but anticipates that staff cuts may be needed.
By ERIN ROLL
Montclair’s schools may be eliminating several staff positions due to budget issues, as well as scheduling and low enrollment. But with the budget, approved on Tuesday, taxpayers will see a 1.7 percent tax increase and the shortfall has been closed.
The Board of Education voted to approve the preliminary $131,150,939 budget on Tuesday, March 2.
In a Feb. 28 letter to the community, Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker announced the staff cuts, citing the district’s budget situation and other issues.
“Costs for personnel and health insurance increased significantly. This, along with low enrollment in some classes, attrition and the need to realign assignments, may cause a reduction in staff,” Parker said, but the letter did not indicate which departments or positions may see staff cuts.
The average household assessed at $626,906 will see their school tax bill go up by $178 to $10,696, up from $10,518 in 2019. Last year, taxpayers saw a 2 percent increase.
In the preliminary budget presentation that the BOE presented on Feb. 19, the board indicated there could be an elimination of one secretary position with a salary of $62,698, and one operational aide position, with a salary of $56,020, as part of the budget adjustments.
On March 3, the district announced that in addition to those two positions, it was considering reducing positions in “related services, paraprofessionals, teaching positions at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and administration restructuring.”
The district has not determined exactly how many, or which positions will be eliminated, Parker said. Some could be eliminated through retirements. None of the proposed cuts are final at this point, he said.
The revised budget reductions presented on March 3 add up to $4,006,937, of which $1,544,157 is the expected result of staff reductions.
The district has been facing the prospect of a large budget shortfall, as much as $7.5 million: almost three times what the anticipated shortfall had been for 2019-2020. The district presented several budget adjustments to help lower the shortfall, but the adjustments as presented on Feb. 19 still left a shortfall of $2.2 million. The budget is now balanced, according to school officials.
Montclair will not receive a significant increase in state aid for 2020-2021. The district will get $7,894,013, up 3.79 percent from last year’s aid amount of $7,605,632, but still well below the $9,038,249 that Montclair is entitled to under the district funding formula.
Once the budget is reviewed by the executive county superintendent, it will be handed back to the BOE to be officially adopted, with an anticipated date of March 16. From there, the budget will be handed on to the Board of School Estimate for review and revisions, followed by public hearings scheduled for March 19, 23 and 26.
The final version of the budget is expected to be adopted by March 31 and then sent back to the executive county superintendent.