|Talking about the budget:|
Please vote on Tuesday, April 16
March 2019 column
Daniel Fishbein, Ed.D.
|Link to 2019-2020 budget and voting information|
The following column appeared in The Ridgewood News on March 29, 2019.
On Tuesday, April 16, 2019 the Ridgewood community will be asked to vote on the Ridgewood Public Schools 2019-2020 school budget as proposed by the Board of Education. The change back to public voting on the school budget occurred in July of 2018 when the Ridgewood Village Council opted to move the Ridgewood Board of Education School Election from November to April.
It is important to note that this year the election falls within the school district’s April break. For this reason, we are making a special effort to inform residents of the option of voting by mail. Information about voting by mail and applications can be found on the home page of our district website at www.ridgewood.k12.nj.us and on each of our school websites as well as at www.njelections.org /vote-by-mail.shtml.
Back to the 2019-2020 budget. People sometimes ask me, “What is the school budget?” Our school budget is a planning tool; it must account for unknown risks, be fiscally responsible, stay within statutory caps, reflect our educational values, provide for our educational programs and meet our contractual obligations.
The 2019-2020 proposed budget meets these requirements and more.
Current, challenging and renewed curriculum lies at the core of our educational program. The proposed budget provides for materials for all of our curriculum so that we can continue to maintain our rigorous K-12 programs, culminating at Ridgewood High School where students can select from 28 different AP courses and tests. The budget supports curriculum revision work at all grade levels and also provides for our ongoing and very rich Chromebook program, which is one-to-one for grades 6-12 and allocates Chromebook carts to almost every class in grades K-5. Importantly, the budget also continues to support our extensive arts, theater and music programs, as well as our athletic program and other co-curriculum programs.
Staff is a central component of our mission of excellence. The 2019-2020 budget provides for several staff additions and new positions. Three elementary school guidance counselors will be hired to assist students with social emotional and transition issues. Three additional special education teachers will allow for the expansion of in-district programming. Two behaviorists will be hired to work district-wide, and a nurse will be employed for our Pre-K special education students at Glen School. The expansion of seven teaching positions at Ridgewood High School from part-time to full-time will occur, and we will also fund our portion of a shared service agreement with the Village of Ridgewood for a school resource police officer.
Regarding special education, we believe that providing the least restrictive environment for our special education students in their home district is optimal. In-district special education is also more cost effective than sending students out of district. For these reasons we have worked hard to develop programs that best suit our special education students’ needs in order to retain and/or return them to the Ridgewood district. We are proud of the fact that in the past five years our numbers have gone from 108 out-of-district students to 85. We will continue to work to develop these least restrictive, most cost-effective special education programs.
Quality education includes ongoing facility maintenance and improvements. As necessary for a safe and effective learning environment, this budget provides for several projects in our buildings, notably the renovation of four district bathrooms, two at George Washington Middle School and two at Benjamin Franklin Middle School. We also plan to replace the turf at Ridgewood High School stadium and make repairs to the track at Benjamin Franklin Middle School. District-wide, a number of paving and cement work projects and the refurbishing of classrooms, hallways and other spaces are also planned.
The 2019-2020 school budget is fiscally responsible. Coming in under the state statutory two percent tax levy cap increase at 1.84 percent on the school tax levy, this budget is both fiscally responsible and works to improve what we do to educate Ridgewood students. While voters will be asked to approve the 1.84 per cent tax levy increase, it is important to point out that inclusive of debt service the overall budget increase is 1.25 percent due to the retirement of old bond referendum debt. Homeowners would see an increase of $173.96 per year on the average assessed Ridgewood home.
More information is available. Details of the 2019-2020 budget may be found on the district website at www.ridgewood.k12.nj.us. If you have questions concerning the budget, please feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will answer them as soon as possible.
Thank you. I thank you for your support of the Ridgewood Public Schools and urge you to vote on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Polls will be open from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. If you are planning to vote by mail, please remember that the postal deadline for vote-by-mail ballot applications is Tuesday, April 9, which guarantees that the County Clerk’s office will send you the April 16 School Election ballot in the mail.
As always, please feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.
Daniel Fishbein, Ed.D., is Superintendent of the Ridgewood Public Schools. Dr. Fishbein can be reached at 201-670-2700, ext. 10530, or via e-mail at email@example.com. For more information on the Ridgewood Public Schools visit the district website at www.ridgewood.k12.nj.us, the district Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RidgewoodPublicSchools, or follow us on Twitter @RwdPubSchools.