Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Program Cuts Loom for Wayne Schools

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Program Cuts Loom for Wayne Schools

Article excerpt

WAYNE -- The Board of Education's vote last week to launch full- day kindergarten in the next school year has the district grappling with how to squeeze a $2.1 million spending initiative into an already strained budget.

The measure to fund a full-day program, long sought by young families, worries other parents and district officials who fear it will force program cuts in Grades 1-12.

Superintendent of Schools Mark Toback said full-day kindergarten, which is already offered in every other Passaic County district, is "very good for the community." But he warned "there is an impact on other students that attend the schools," and he said "major cuts to staffing and programs" will be required.

"I would be grateful if the only consideration we had was full- day kindergarten, but we have a number of other budget problems that are, in combination, going to make this a very difficult budget season," he said.

In a 6-2 vote, the school board on Jan. 7 approved a motion to fund full-day kindergarten in all nine elementary schools for the 2016-17 school year. Christian Smith, the trustee who proposed the motion, said the measure was about fulfilling a promise board members made in March 2015 that they would implement full-day kindergarten beginning in September of this year, regardless of the results of a November ballot question.

Voters rejected the measure 5,048-4,455, with opponents balking at the price tag. The tax increase on the average home in Wayne, assessed at $228,200, would have been $47 per year, the district had said.

Smith said the November vote concerned whether the full-day kindergarten would be implemented outside the constraints of the 2- percent tax levy cap. The Jan. 7 vote authorized the board to implement it within the cap.

Even before the board added the cost of full-day kindergarten to the budget, Wayne schools faced a shortfall of about $3 million. That amount has to be accommodated within a 2 percent capthat equals $2.8 million, Business Administrator Juanita Petty said. "Now they throw in kindergarten on top of it and we're looking at 5 million," she said.

The district is confronting two large spikes in costs: Health benefit costs are set to rise $3.4 million because of recent high- cost claims. Salaries are projected to climb $3.2 million under municipal worker contracts and with new hires, though Petty said that number could decrease. …

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