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Budget Process is Off to an Early Start

Anticipating what Superintendent Alvarez terms “a tough budget season,” the Board of Education has announced it has begun the budget process early this year. The decision was made in response to a variety of factors, foremost and including the nationwide economic crisis.

Board members and key administrative staff have already begun meeting with municipal officials to provide information about the district’s operating costs, educational mandates imposed by the state, and how funds are dispersed throughout the calendar year.

Board President John Carlton has said publicly that he and Dr. Alvarez consider it prudent to get an early start, particularly because all three of the township officials who serve on this year’s Board of School Estimate were elected in the spring.

“As the many people who have attended our budget seminars know, this process can be complex. We want to make sure everyone involved is familiar with the kinds of expenses we manage, the directives we get from the state department and other considerations we face as we craft a new budget,” the Superintendent said.

“As always, we’re committed to keeping our administrative costs low — as they are now relative to the state average — and our student services and programs as comprehensive as possible. But we don’t expect that to be easy this year.”

Among the factors prompting the early budget season start: budget woes at the state level. Following a small increase last year to middle-class districts like Montclair, it’s likely that this year the state will reduce aid — causing a shortfall in Montclair’s and many other districts’ operating funds.

In addition, township funding may be lean as well. Township officials are expected to try to keep a lid on taxes this year, the majority of which go to the schools, due to widespread economic hardship throughout town.

“We actually began preliminary work on this budget in July,” Superintendent Alvarez said. “[Business Administrator] Dana Sullivan and I felt that the sooner we started to take a look at it, the better.”

Article Date: Nov 26, 2008