Bad State Aid News, Rising Charter School Costs Make School Budget Preparation ‘Challenging’
Update: The budget presentation meeting has been rescheduled for 7:45 p.m. March 21 in the FHS media center.
Flat state school aid and more than $2 million in other aid cuts and charter school cost increases is making preparing the 2017-18 school district budget a challenging proposition for district officials.
But that’s the reality that schools Superintendent John Ravally and his team are facing in the next week as they fine-tune the district’s proposed 2017-18 spending plan.
Ravally is expected to make his budget presentation to the Board of Education at a special meeting set for 6:30 p.m. March 14 in the Franklin High School cafeteria.
Aid figures released March 2 by the state Department of Education show that the district is slated to receive $13,283,157 in regular aid, the same amount it received for the current budget. The 2015-16 state aid was $129,569 more than what the district received from the state in the 2015-16 school year.
The district’s proposed pre-school aid was cut by $283,458, from the 2016-17 figure of $1,720,995 to $1,437,537 for the 2017-18 school year.
The district this school year instituted a $5,900 yearly tuition charge for pre-school students, which resulted in fewer than anticipated enrollments. School board president Ed Potosnak has said that the board is considering offering pre-care and after-care programs for those students to compete with private pre-schools, which now offer those services.
Also in the mix is a 20 percent increase in the amount the district will have to pay the six charter schools attended by township students. Two of the five schools – Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School and Central Jersey College Prep Charter School – are located in the township and represent the largest chunk of that money.
Potosnak said that in figures also released last week, the state has estimated the district must pay about $10.8 million to the charter schools in the next school year, an increase of about $1.8 million over the $9 million budgeted for the current school year. He said that figure could increase by as much as 10 percent when transportation costs are factored in.
That would be a more than 40 percent increase in the money sent to charter schools over the last two years, not counting transportation costs.
Potosnak said it was too early to estimate how the flat state aid, cut in pre-school aid and increase in charter school payments would affect the 2016-7 budget.
“Flat state aid is really a cut because costs like electricity, heat, and healthcare continue to rise,” he said. “Sadly, we all recall the drastic cuts at the start of Christie’s term and breathe a sigh of relief when we don’t see cuts, but it really is unsettling to have the state aid not even keep up with rising expenses.”
The rising charter school payments, Potosnak said, “are making it harder and harder to meet the needs of our students.”
As far as any specific impacts, Potosnak said,” until the budget is released, there is nothing to share about the reduction in pre-K aid or flat state aid.”
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