BRICK – The reality of the school district losing $23 million in state aid over the course of seven years hit home with parents who attended the most recent Board of Education meeting.
Dozens of Herbertsville Elementary School parents were in the audience since one of the agenda items was to accept a $38,000 donation from the Herbertsville PTA to be used towards a new playground.
The PTA had been told by the school administration that they should hold off on funding the playground until a plan is in place to make up for a revenue shortfall that has resulted from the loss of state funding.
Some parents were concerned that Herbertsville Elementary School could be on the chopping block, especially after hearing that school officials advised them to leave $6,000 of the playground funds in an escrow account in case the playground equipment needed to be moved in the future.
PTA President Chrissie Arif said that students and their families had been fundraising for so long that some of those students had aged out of the elementary school and had moved on to middle school.
“The administration didn’t say we didn’t want the playground, you worked so hard for this,” said Board of Education President Stephanie Wohlrab. “We just want to be transparent.”
Board members voted to approve the playground without the $6,000 being held in escrow.
Several parents spoke about how they had specifically moved to the area of Herbertsville Elementary School so they could send their kids there.
One parent said that closing the Herbertsville school would result in other schools becoming overpopulated. “We’re here as a group to say let us help you not close the school,” she said.
School Business Administrator James Edwards said that closing a school would not be beneficial to the district because of a school funding formula that would put the district further below adequacy and could result in further funding cuts.
There could be a reconfiguration of schools, similar to what Stafford did, he said. For example, by keeping all the 4th graders in one school, resources could be spread out and could result in keeping class sizes at about 25 students, he said.
Edwards said Brick needs to look at replacing the lost revenue. Meanwhile, the district is asking the state to replace some of the funds in emergency aid. “That would get us through another year,” he said.
This is the third time Brick is asking for emergency aid, Edwards said. “The first year we got it, the second time we didn’t,” he said. “We need a long-term fix.”
Wolhrab said there is a lot of uncertainty in the district since the budget cuts are incremental over seven years. The first year the district lost about $1 million, the second year about $2 million, and this year it’s down about $4 million, she said.
“Parents need to come to meetings to see what we’re faced with,” she said. “It’s dire. What do you cut? Teachers, facilities, then we fall under adequacy. It’s a vicious cycle. The state tells us we need to do this but how do we get there?” Wohlrab asked. “Nothing is off the table.”
She urged the parents to organize and send representatives from other schools to Board of Education meetings who could report to other parents at PTA groups.
“We need you to be here; it’s not just a one-school situation here,” Wohlrab said. “They’ve cut $24 million, that’s a lot of money.”
The next Board of Education meeting will be on September 12 at 7 p.m. at the Professional Development Center at the Veterans Complex.