People are making the mistake of thinking the BOE has alternatives and they don’t

In BOE, new jersey fiscal crisis, Ridegwood Schools on March 13, 2009 at 2:49 pm

People are making the mistake of thinking the BOE has alternatives and they don’t. We have a huge budget deficit due to the continued increase in compensation, health care costs, deteriorating facilities, special education costs and the fact that the State of NJ has capped budget increases to 4% per year. 80+% of the budget is related to compensation for teachers, staff, etc…. You can only cut so much out of the other 20% and even doing that does not really have that much of an effect in total dollars because there really isn’t any one thing of size that can be cut. That leaves cutting staff as the one place where reductions can be made that will have a significant real dollar impact on the budget. We may not like it but it is probably going to be necessary.

The entire country is being “resized” as leverage comes out of the system. People and businesses are being forced to recognize the difference between “wants” and “needs.” Education is not going to be an exception. Jobs are going to be lost, programs are going to be cut, and class sizes are going to grow, it is inevitable. I would think in the next year or so you will see a fairly dramatic reduction in the course offerings at RHS as the realization that we are running a HS not a Liberal Arts College takes hold and some of the specialized courses that have a handful of students at the most are eliminated or offered on a fee only basis. “Wants” are going to be reduced or eliminated and “needs” are going to be streamlined and continued.

Real Estate values have shrunk and people are now much more aware of risk and they don’t like it. Saving rates are growing rapidly as people curtail their spending and they will be much more prudent in their spending habits going forward. They will be much more inquisitive on where their money is being spent and much more demanding that it be spent on things that truly matter. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Hopefully it will engage more people in the process and bring some new ideas to the table and it should bring us back to the core subjects and core needs for our kids. It will make us more aware and more appreciative of what our town and schools have to offer and the advantages our kids are exposed to. It will not come without pain and loss but the end result could be that we will be a more focused, more efficient, more relevant school district. The time for blame is past, we are all guilty of spending too much on things we really didn’t need and now it is time for us, the BOE, the Village of Ridgewood to pay. If we do it rationally and intelligently we can avoid real long term pain and come out on the other end with a better school system and a more attractive town.


  1. Yes, I agree the major cost is people. But look at their compensation and the administrative layers.

    We have too many math chiefs and they are relying too much on consultant math chiefs to help them. We are failing at providing the quality of math instruction parents are requiring.

    So can’t we just fail with fewer administrators?

    Even when we get a better program in place, will we still need three math administrators? Can’t we do with 2 or 1?

    Get rid of one of those salaried administrator at cottage place and we would be able to afford implementing the new math program in our elementary schools. Right now, we are picking a program and then saying to parents you can’t all have it because we don’t have the money.

    That’s rich. A public school saying it doesn’t have the money for Math. Math!

    What’s more important? Having math administrators or having actual math in the classrooms? Is this one really that hard?

  2. To add to this, there is another aspect of the budget that is non-negotiable — that’s for Special Education. This is a mandated service that our schools MUST provide. There are no limits on new Special Education needs that can be added during a school year, and so there is no limit to how high this cost can go in a given year.
    For example, once we all vote and hopefully approve this years’ school budget, if there is a sudden increase in Special Education needs, and the costs increase by $1 million (not too hard as each Special Ed student can cost the district upwards of $100,000/year), where is that $1 million supposed to come from?
    The budget doesn’t have any “fluff” in it. Something would have to give, and it wouldn’t be because of mis-management or too many administrators.

  3. The real answer is for Valley Hospital to stop getting subsidized by everyone who lives in Ridgewood, and give the Village annual Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) like many other non-profits in the country. The amount of PILOT that Valley should pay has been estimated at between $1.2 million to almost $5 million every year. This money would help to offset all of the services the hospital uses and help repair the roads that allows Valley to service the 94% of its patients that do not live in Ridgewood. In 2007 Valley earned $40million in excess after all expenses were paid including unfunded patient care. How about it Valley pay your fair share!

  4. Time to regionalize. Save money all around.

  5. 3:47 I LOVE your idea. Why not sending this proposal to the VC. Maybe it will open there eyes – a little-

  6. 4:41 PM says “Time to regionalize. Save money all around.” Exactly how will a bigger organization save money? Most “regional” school districts are complaining about funding issues where wealther communities in the regional district spend more per student than others in the group. Cases in point: Ramapo-Indian Hills, Pascack Valley, Manchester and River Dell regional districts. In the last few years Oradell and North Haledon both tried to get out of their respective regional districts due to excessive costs and the State would not let them. So tell me, who can we regionalize with and exactly how much money will I save? Who has recently entered into a regional school district and how much money are they saving? Does bigger save money or just give you bigger waste, less local control and bigger political corruption?

  7. Regionalization will open the eyes of the administration. There have been too many years of automatic 4 to 6 % increase in budget. A dose of reality is needed.

  8. Actually, the BOE DOES have choices and it makes them every day. It CHOSE to dramatically increase the MIS budget and head count without substantial benefits to students. I understand it’s not easy to read the annual budget, much less to compare budgets side by side and see the trends that emerge, but you really need to do your homework. This school district and BOE frittered away millions.

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