2023-2024 Budget Deficit Q/A

(NOTE: This page will be updated with more questions as well as more information as it becomes available.)


How large is the District’s budget deficit?

About $5.5 million ($5,499,593).

How was that number arrived at?

Per the District’s May 3 budget presentation (Slide 13), the preliminary budget that had to be submitted to the county in March listed the total amount of funding coming into the District (revenue) for 2023-24 as $138,858,260.

The preliminary budget listed General Fund Appropriations (the cost of running the District) in 2023-24 as $146,404,430, leaving a deficit of $7,546,170.

The District’s Business Office was subsequently able to find an additional $2,096,577 in savings. (listed in Slide 1)

$7,546,170 (initial deficit) - $2,096,577 (additional savings) = $5,449,593 deficit. (Slide 15)

Why is there a deficit at all?

For a few reasons.

Local property taxes are the main source of school funding in New Jersey. Since 2011 the state has limited annual property tax increases to no more than two percent, which can’t keep pace with rising transportation and healthcare costs, contracted teacher salary increases, and the rise in all costs due to inflation.

Districts across the state are wrestling with many of the same budget challenges.

Additionally, state funding for Montclair remained flat across all areas except special education. (Slide 9)

Moreover, millions of dollars in pandemic-related funding ends with the 2022-23 year. (Slide 20

Is there any way the District could raise property taxes more than two percent?

The state permits public agencies like school districts to raise local property taxes by more than two percent when voters agree to the increase through a referendum. 

However, there are exemptions to the need for a referendum to raise taxes, including when the agency must make an adjustment for health care costs.

But in asking residents to support the school bond referendum last fall despite its tax impact, the District promised it would not try to raise taxes again this year. 

We are aware of the burden tax increases impose on those with fixed incomes, including many whose families do not personally benefit from changes in the District. In addition to being one of the most heavily taxed municipalities in New Jersey, Montclair has one of the highest levels of income inequality statewide.

With that in mind, the District reduced the 2023-24 tax levy for debt service on the school bond to $106 from $199  (for the owner of a property assessed at the town average) by collecting state aid originally deferred to 2024-25. (Slides 22-24)

The $199 figure was itself a reduction from the District’s initial estimate of a $258 average tax impact — made possible by the District securing a more favorable interest rate for the bond purchase (3.52 percent) than it had originally projected (4.2 percent). (January 2023 Bond Update, Slides 12-13)


Why are teaching positions being cut — why not make other cuts to reduce the deficit?

No one wants to cut teacher or paraprofessional positions. Other types of cuts were discussed and implemented. Given the size of the deficit, and the fact that roughly 80 percent of the District budget goes to salaries and benefits, some staff reductions were unavoidable.

According to the District’s latest audit, the town’s public school population has decreased by 611 students since 2019 (to 6,048 from 6,659), a nine percent drop that mirrors declines across the state and nation caused primarily by the COVID pandemic. During the same period, the District’s teaching staff has increased by eight percent (to 623 from 576). (District Audit Report, p. 153)

Due to inefficient staff scheduling in the District in the past, sections of many classes are attended by fewer than ten, or even five, students. Consolidating some of these classes will not cause schools to exceed class-size standards.

Where are staff reductions being made?

A total of 31 teaching positions were cut: 22 teachers were not renewed and nine positions that became vacant through attrition won’t be filled.

Montclair High School: Three teachers were not renewed and two more positions that became empty through attrition won’t be filled.

Glenfield: Eight teachers were not renewed and three more positions that became empty through attrition won’t be filled.

Hillside: Three teachers were not renewed and three more positions that became empty through attrition won’t be filled.

Nishuane: Five teachers were not renewed.

Renaissance: Three teachers were not renewed, and three more positions that became empty through attrition won’t be filled.

In addition 34 paraprofessional positions were cut. No paras serving students with IEPs or Kindergarten students were cut.

Are there cuts to academic programs as well?

No. The District held harmless the array of course offerings that make learning in our schools a rich and distinctive experience. In some cases, there will be fewer sections of a particular course, but no subjects were eliminated.

Are there cuts to Central Office?

Yes — $635,000 is being cut.

Did the teachers union suggest ways to reduce the deficit?

The MEA suggested reducing club and athletic stipends by two percent, reducing the athletics budget by two percent, and reducing supplies schoolwide by ten percent. The budget reflects the MEA’s suggestions.


What about changes to the Montclair High School schedule? Is it true that a study hall will be eliminated and that students won’t be able to take as many credits as in the past?

Next year’s high school schedule is still being formulated. The Superintendent and his staff are working with leaders at the school to ensure that any changes honor student course selection to the extent possible.

What if a student needs more credits to graduate than will be available next year?

No student will be prevented from graduating on time because of a change in next year’s schedule that is out of their control.  

Will there continue to be science labs?


Will AP subjects be cut?


Why is the schedule being changed at all?

In order to keep as many staff positions as possible, school leaders have looked for other ways to save.  Study halls are very costly — teachers can't be required to cover them, so the school has to hire substitutes or pay overtime. Reducing the number of study halls helps the high school realize needed cost savings but may also eliminate a period, which could affect students taking multiple electives and other scheduling. 


Why are math teaching positions at Glenfield being cut?

As is the case with the high school, It should be noted that the Superintendent will be working with Glenfield leadership on a 2023-24 schedule that ensures classes will not be lost and District class-size standards are maintained.

Some math classes at Glenfield had sections with an enrollment of fewer than ten students, or even five students, which the District cannot afford to support. While no class will be lost, some consolidation was necessary. 

The Superintendent was also concerned about persistent underperformance in math at Glenfield, especially among students who need more help. Part of the work will involve restructuring around interventions that research has shown have better results in helping students at all levels to learn and build (and enjoy) math skills.

Will math classes be overcrowded next year?

No. Classes will not exceed District standards.
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