School board: How much more will state cut?

CHATHAM — The Board of Education discussed state aid, creating a budget for next school year and enrollment numbers at this week’s meeting. Members also approved a new employment contract for school Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo, as well as the contracts for Business Administrator Diane Melacki and Director of Pupil Services Jean Scheriff.

Ms. Nuciforo started the Tuesday, September 28 meeting by telling the board there was a power outage in the high school that morning caused by a breaker on Route 203. But students lost only about five minutes of instructional time, she said, thanks to the organized efforts of the staff and administration.

 

The superintendent also informed the board that the district is losing another $56,258 in state aid, adding, “We don’t think [they] are done yet.” She said the district budget anticipates $200,000 less in aid than the governor promised in his budget. So Ms. Nuciforo assured the board members they still have some room to handle more hits from the state. But she did warn them that “a property tax cap is becoming increasingly likely,” which would change district funding, since the budget is mainly financed through property taxes.

The board talked about setting a budget calendar. The administration, along with the board’s Finance Committee, has already started looking at numbers. Board member David O’Connor said he felt the board was brought into the budgeting process way too late. “There are a lot of things that are hidden in the budget,” he said, citing relatively small expenses that cause concern in the community. He talked about half-empty busses and landscaping on district lawns. “It’s not big-dollar items that are visible to the public,” he said.

Board President John Wapner asked board members to look for issues in the budget that raised questions in their minds.

Ms. Nuciforo reminded board members that the district cut $2.3 million from the budget two years ago and $2 million last year. She also said that the district has had three superintendents in three years, and two business administrators. “We haven’t had one superintendent and one business administrator go through two [budget] cycles,” she said.

The board approved an amended employment contract for Ms. Nuciforo through June 30, 2015 and Ms. Malaki’s contract through June 2013. Jean Sheriff’s contract was also approved until 2013. A call to the superintendent’s office Wednesday to confirm the salary in her contract was not returned before press deadline.

Also at the meeting, Ms. Nuciforo discussed enrollment numbers and the district’s facilities. She said the new enrollment numbers for this September show 1,250 students in the district. “Our upper grade numbers are significantly larger then our lower grades,” she said, which makes her wonder whether the district needs three buildings.

The board planned to move forward with looking for a professional consultant to study the question. “This is going to be a sensitive community issue,” said board member Francis Iaconetti. He went on to say that an independent professional could look at the issue with “clear eyes.”

The next school board meeting will be Tuesday, October 12 in the High School Library.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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