What's new in the school budget

Tech upgrades, math coach, volleyball program included in district plans

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By the numbers
2014-2015 proposed budget: $72,416,277
Average assessed home share: $4,780.19
Increase for avg. taxpayer over last year: $127.21

The West Milford Board of Education introduced its 2014-2015 budget of $72.4 million last week, an increase of more than $2.5 million over the current year’s budget. Here is a breakdown of the budget including the new programs and upgrades planned to the district.

The figures
Revenue, or expenses, for the 2014-2015 school year will climb $2,537,160 above last year’s total of $69,879,117 for a total of $72,416,277.

State aid increased over last year by $72,500.

Medicaid Reimbursement is $7,317 less than last year.

Extraordinary Aid of $750,000, and a $590,485 increase available in the fund balance above last year will be used.

A withdrawal from the capital reserve of $850,000 this year is an increase of $705,000 over last year's reserve used.

Maintenance reserve of $150,000 will help fund capital projects and maintenance costs.

The fund balance for 2014-2015 will be $2,282,340.

General Fund Budget - where the money goes

The general fund is the part of the budget that provides for the district's programs, salaries, benefits, extra-curricular activities and more. The state caps the tax levy at two percent over the previous year for districts that moved their school board elections to November, which West Milford did last year. That brings the general fund to $53,042,837 for the upcoming school year.

Administration and benefits increases include adjustments from recently negotiated and settled contracts. The impact of increasing healthcare costs was minimized with the implementation of employee contributions for benefits, along with an extended period rate changed from 12 months to 17 months which expires June 2014. A 13 percent increase is anticipated upon renewal.

The two percent tax levy increase includes $497,390 for debt service.

If this budget is approved as it stands now, the homeowner with the average assessed house valued at $247,000, will pay $4,780 for school taxes, resulting in an annual increase of $127.21.

Highlights - new programs, upgrades

Elementary mathematics coach - The district will hire an elementary mathematics coach to support mathematics programs and improve competence of students at the elementary level. “Math scores are not where we want them to be,” said James McLaughlin, superintendent of schools. He said they are going to be aggressive in pursuing help for the kids, particularly at the younger levels, to provide a solid base for math skills. The mathematics coach will be an in-house position.

Continued professional development – Reading/Writing Workshops, Project Adventure training, and LEARN System for Teachscape. Director of Education Iris Wechling said there will be continued professional development opportunities provided in house to staff, utilizing skills of current staff members and administrators to teach others as presenters, and increase staff working together.

Upgrades in technology and transitioning gradually to utilizing more digital learning materials for students began two years ago with the implementation of using programs such as RazKids reading and IXL math programs for practicing skills in school and at home, according to Wechling. Textbooks will be purchased in “classroom sets” for use in the classroom and for students without internet/computer access to borrow.

Technology upgrades are being completed over time. This year, computer labs at both Marshall Hill and Upper Greenwood Lake schools will be updated in addition to upgrades needed for state mandated PARCC readiness preparation district-wide. The state mandates that districts must be ready for PARCC implementation by 2015; however, West Milford schools will participate in a pilot PARCC program this year. Necessary equipment will include technology upgrades such as Chromebooks, keyboards for iPads, headsets for each student to use, and increasing the district’s current bandwidth.

E-portfolios for high school students is a pilot program in which students can create and save technology projects, have a resource builder to assist them with college readiness, applications, preparation for the work field, etc. and be able to show their technology skills as needed or required. A contained student email system will also be included for students to communicate with teachers, submit assignments, etc.

Band uniforms are 25 years old and in need of replacement for competition purposes. Francisco said the Band Parents Association will make a 10 percent contribution toward the replacement of the uniforms.

Boys' and girls volleyball - The district is looking to add an interscholastic volleyball program for both a girls’ team and a boys’ team.

Buses and trucks are in need of replacement as per requirements and age/failure. The district will replace five buses and trucks and two maintenance vehicles.

The public hearing for the school budget is scheduled for April 29. The board is expected to adopt the budget at that meeting. The meeting will be held in the Westbrook School Media Center at 7:30 p.m.

Tell us what you think about the district’s proposed budget. Go to westmilfordmessenger.com.

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