Officials: School Budget Cuts Lessened

Acting Superintendent Dennis Filippone, Board President John Lamela and Board Attorney Nicholas Montenegro discuss the budget. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – The school district might be forced to rein in spending even more than it already has if reports of a $720,000 cut in state funding are true.

In a deal originally proposed by State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Brick was one of 126 school districts deemed overfunded due to decreasing enrollment, and more state aid would be granted to 370 districts that have increasing enrollment.

Since 2006, enrollment in Brick schools has dropped down about 20 percent.

“We have a potential loss of state aid, but we’ve had no official notification yet from the Department of Education,” said Acting Superintendent of Schools Dennis Filippone at the most recent Board of Education meeting.

Stacked palettes of roofing materials are ready for roof replacement at the Warren H. Wolf Elementary School. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

(This was Filippone’s first Board of Education meeting since taking the reins from Interim Superintendent Thomas Gialanella. Filippone has a 39-year career in the district as a teacher, coach and administrator.)

A $2.1 million state funding cut to the district was originally proposed, but due to “tireless efforts” by local legislators, including the 10th Legislative District and Brick Mayor John G. Ducey, that number was reduced to $720,000, Filippone said.

“The administration has had preliminary discussions of what we can do [if there is a budget cut] but it would be premature to discuss,” he added.

“We are still hopeful that amount might be reduced even further. There’s still conversations being had,” Filippone said.

After the exact amount of the cut is finalized, the administration would put a plan together and the plan would be put in front of the public at the August Board of Education meeting, “as long as we get guidance in a reasonable amount of time,” Filippone said. “The wheels at the Department of Education turn very slowly.”

On April 27, the Brick Township Board of Education adopted the 2017-2018 school year budget of $154,421,700, a 1.22 percent increase over last year’s budget of $150,618,318.

During public comment, resident and former Board of Education member Larry Reid said he had analyzed and gone through all 800 accounts in the school budget and said that $720,000 could be realized without cutting any teacher positions or programs.

“We could look at last year’s expenditures, trends, etc.” said Reid, who has an MBA in finance and offered to volunteer to help find savings for the potential budget cut.

“My opinion is if you can’t find $720,000 in a $154 million budget, you’re not trying hard enough,” he said.

Parking lot repairs are ongoing at Brick High School throughout the budget situation. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Cuts should not affect the number of teachers or administrators, which Reid called “essential.”

“They’re priorities. The last thing we need to do is cut any programs. The students are the only ones without a contract in this district. We have to serve them first,” he said.

Business Administrator James Edwards said there is $3 million more in capital reserve this June than last June, for a total of $8 million, but much of that was transferred from capital reserve to capital expenditures to pay for some of the large ongoing facilities projects in the district, including a roof replacement project at Warren H. Wolf Elementary School and parking lot improvements at Brick High School and the Veteran’s Complex.

“Paving a parking lot doesn’t have a lot of educational value,” Reid said.

Board of Education Vice President Stephanie Wohlrab said parking lot improvements were needed because of safety issues.

Board of Education member John Barton said that some NJ Boards of Education affected by the budget cuts had made two budgets – one for before the Sweeney-Prieto cut, and one for after.

“It’s not fair to anybody to take money from any one area before we know for sure,’ Barton said.

The next Board of Education meeting will be on Thursday, August 10 at 7 p.m. at Brick High School.