School board approves $68.5 million budget

| 29 Mar 2012 | 12:20

WEST MILFORD - The West Milford Board of Education approved the proposed $68.5 million budget for the 2012-2013 school year, a budget that increases 1.7 percent and will cost the owner of the average home in the township $4,549 per year. That is $38 more than that same homeowner paid this current budget year.

The vote was not a unanimous one Tuesday night. Trustees John Aiello and Jim Foody voted no on the budget.

Interim Superintendent John Petrelli began the presentation by explaining how they went from last year’s budget with many cuts, to the current proposed budget with no cuts and surplus money to add full-day kindergarten, additional personnel and programs once cut.

Petrelli described the events leading to the surplus money as “a perfect storm.” He said the passage of the 2011-2012 budget, employee contributions to health benefits as required by the state, stabilization of health premium costs, an increase of $83,000 in state aid, and conservative spending last year resulting in a $1 million surplus to be applied to the 2012-2013 budget has made the additions possible.

“This is a window of opportunity that this township can’t pass up, because these things that have come together this year may never come together again," said Petrelli. "And if the budget is approved by the public, it lays a foundation for even greater resources to be given to your children to get an excellent education.”

By the numbers Business Administrator/Board Secretary Barbara Francisco presented the numbers, saying there are certain parameters that are used in creating the budget and that the Core Curriculum Standards are something they need to be mindful of as well as the additional implementation of the new standards that will be fully implemented in 2013-14.

Francisco said that while they can increase the budget more than 2 percent overall, they are required by law to maintain a 2 percent cap on the tax levy, and stated that the current budget as presented to the board is at a 1.76 percent increase in the tax levy.

The revenues listed in the budget are to support the General Fund which is what the public votes on with the tax levy proposal on April 17.

“Based upon the revenues that we are anticipating and the reassessment that you had here this year, the budget that we’re presenting to you for the General Fund that will be voted on on April 17 will have a $38 a year increase on the average assessed household,” said Francisco. The average assessed household in West Milford is $247,000 for an increase of $38.07.

Contracts are up Trustee Wayne Gottlieb said that virtually all union contracts have expired or will expire on June 30. As chair of the Negotiations Committee, he said they are currently in negotiations with nearly all district employees and he cannot tell with any amount of certainty how those contracts will settle. He doesn’t know what the monetary requirements will be to settle those contracts; and that will have a direct effect on the budget.

Full-day kindergarten will be implemented

Gottlieb referenced a flyer that has been distributed in the township encouraging voters to defeat the budget if they are against the full-day kindergarten program. He said that a failed budget would not necessarily result in the kindergarten program being scrapped, but will lead to a loss of control of the budget to the town council.

Petrelli made it clear that his recommendation for the full-day kindergarten program to begin in September would stand even in the case of a failed budget.

Election Day Voters in the school district will go to the polls on Tuesday, April 17, to vote on the budget. If the budget fails, it goes to the township council. The council will come up with a dollar amount that must be cut. The school board then makes the cuts to its budget in whatever areas it chooses.

Also, voters will choose three trustees for the board of education. Five candidates are running, including incumbents John Aiello and Greg Bailey, and challengers Kevin Babbitt, Inge Koeppe and Adrienne Shanler.

To see the district's budget presentation, go to and click on budget at the top right.