Montclair schools to get $7.4 million in state aid
By ERIN ROLL
Montclair is set to receive an additional $500,000 in state aid for the 2018-2019 school year.
The state Department of Education released the aid numbers for each district Thursday, March 15. Montclair is expected to receive $7,428,526 in aid, up from $6,891,951 from last year. This represents an increase of $536,575, or 7.8 percent rise in aid.
Montclair has been debating how to fill a $1.5 million budget deficit. At Monday night’s board of education meeting, the board discussed several different strategies, from taking a health benefits waiver which would increase taxes to eliminating several bus aide and paraprofessional positions. However, several board members were wary of taking the health benefits waiver against an increase in taxes for Montclair residents, while parents protested the idea of eliminating bus aides.
Before the state announced its numbers, the Montclair BOE released two tax increase scenarios for homeowners. If a health benefits waiver was approved the average homeowner at $510,588 would see an increase in school taxes of $290. Without the waiver that homeowner would see an increase $201.
"I'm beside myself, I'm so happy," Board of Education President Laura Hertzog said Thursday.
Hertzog said that Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak and Business Administrator Emidio D'Andrea had already worked with their team on finding ways to economize. "This wasn't the first cut," Hertzog said of the budget deficit strategies. "The idea that some of these cuts may not happen is wonderful."
D’Andrea said the administration was going over each line item in the budget to determine where cuts could be avoided or where spending to be increased. “It [$500,000] helps us with our budget development and we’re working on how to make the best use of the money,” he added.
D’Andrea said that the district was happy with the number, noting the governor's state budget address had promised an increase in aid for schools.
The aid package includes $1,175,389 in transportation aid, $5,175,373 in special education categorical aid, $755,225 in security aid and $322,539 in adjustment aid.
The district had hoped to receive additional funding for security purposes in the wake of the Parkland school shooting last month.
The BOE is set to approve a tentative budget on Monday, March 19, before handing it over to the county for review. How tax bills will be affected will be released then, as well. Once the county has made its own recommendations, the district plans to adopt the final draft of the budget.
This is a developing story. Follow the Montclair Local for more information.