Charter school fees impact school budget

KEARNY – The Kearny Board of Education budget is in and the news is bad.

That’s because the local tax levy for the 2017-2018 school year is up and, therefore, so are the school taxes.

In support of an increase in the general fund from last school year, from $83,977,128 to $84,226,387, local school taxes are projected to rise, from $4,548 in 2016 to $4,693 in 2017 – an increase of $145 on the “average” house assessed at about $95,000.

State aid remains flat at $30,928,987 and surplus is dropping from $1,581,164 to $540,867.

So reported H. Ronald Smith, interim school business administrator, following the KBOE’s adoption of the 2017-2018 budget on April 24.

To stay within the state-mandated 2% budget cap, the KBOE will be eliminating 34 positions, including 10 teaching slots being vacated via retirements June 30, according to Smith.

Leaving those job slots empty will result in a projected savings of about $2.5 million in salaries and benefits, Smith said.

A school secretary and a district administrator (supervisor of English Language Arts & Social Studies) are included among the positions not being filled.

The KBOE has sent non-renewal notices to all its non-tenured employees but Superintendent of Schools Patricia Blood said no decisions have yet been made about how many will be re-hired for the fall term.

Among the big ticket items that, Smith said, are driving up budget costs are: tuition fees paid for Kearny resident students attending the Hudson Arts & Science Charter School, up from $3,137,990 to $4,336,651; energy, up from $1,136,537 to $1,250,019; employee pension contributions, up from $1,004,576 to $1,103,000; lease/purchase of equipment, up from $862,000 to $956,397; and insurance, up from $1,233,417 to $1,270,420.

Additionally, Smith said that the district was saddled with the payment of nearly $300,000 in interest on a bond issued to help pay costs associated with completing the high school construction project.

As of press time, a copy of the school budget had yet to be posted on the KBOE website.

In other business at last week’s meeting, the KBOE:

Accepted three employees’ retirements: kindergarten teacher Debra A. Kelly, after 32 years of service; Carol Kook, coordinator of accounts payable/receivable, after 25 years; and Elizabeth Battaglino, bookkeeper/accounts payable, after 16 years.

Authorized the following appointments: Alan Correnti as summer school director at a stipend of $5,637; Kristen Salisbury as coordinator of the SMART program at a stipend of $6,617 with funding provided by Title 1A; Stefanee Pace as fall girls’ head soccer coach at $9,199; and Keith Severino as spring boys’ intramural coach/adviser at $1,670.

Ratified an inter-local agreement with the town of Kearny on accepting FEMA grant funds for the installation of a generator at Schuyler School for emergencies.

• Approved Kearny High School’s participation in a fully-funded J-Leap grant program for English-Japanese language studies for the upcoming school year and two new elementary school programs – “Making Meaning” for grades 3 to 5 at a cost of $35,000 “with a 50% deferment available,” and “Knowing Science” for grades K to 5 at a cost of $380,000 over two years for teacher manuals and science kits, plus an additional $23,000 for “Literacy Book Bundles” and $11,500 for “Student Activity Books” in the first year.

Approved new high school course proposals for AP Latin, AP Italian and Modern Math and 26 new job descriptions covering “administrative, supervisory, teaching, clerical and custodial categories, as well as miscellaneous support positions.”

Authorized a maximum of 75 hours of summer work for school nurses “to review health/immunization records and to assist with medical exams in the high school.”

Agreed to “adjusted work hours for 12-month district employees to facilitate all building closures on Fridays beginning the week of June 26 through the week of Aug. 21. Employee hours will be adjusted to reflect an extended work day on Mondays through Thursdays.”

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