Daniel Fishbein, Ed.D. in his own words….

In BOE, Dr Fishbein, Ridgewood Schools on March 22, 2009 at 11:28 pm


The Ridgewood News
Superintendent’s Corner

February 2009
Daniel Fishbein, Ed.D.

Minding the Budget Gap: Belt-Tightening and the Ridgewood
Public School Budget

No doubt you have heard that the Ridgewood Public Schools has projected a $2.5
million budget gap for the 2009/2010 school year. Since New Jersey statutory
regulations impose strict limits on the preparation, management and growth of public
school budgets, closing the budget gap can only be done by cutting projected expenses.

Approximately 80% of our budget is salary and benefits, so in order to close that gap we
must evaluate every line in our budget and attempt to make cuts in areas that have a
minimum impact on our classrooms. By law our budget can only increase at 4% of the
previous year’s tax levy or approximately 3.6% of our total budget for the previous year.

The following are answers to some frequently asked questions about the school

The Budget Gap

Q: Why will there be a gap in the 2009-2010 budget?
A: State law requires that every year districts use any fund balance (surplus) in excess of
2% of the total budget for tax relief during the next fiscal year. Over the past few years,
due to careful budgeting and budget management, the RBOE was able to provide

approximately $2.6 million in tax relief. Because of unanticipated expenses during the
2007-2008 school year, there will be only $700,000 in tax relief for the 2009-2010
school year, and an almost $2 million gap between projected revenues and expenditures.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that our out-of-district Special Education and
Vocational Education tuition costs have also increased in excess of $500,000, or 16%.
Finally, other costs—insurance, employee contracts, energy, etc.—have increased at a
higher percentage rate than the amount by which we are permitted to increase our budget.
At this time we do not know how or when the Federal stimulus money will affect the

Q: Where, specifically, is the district finding the $2.5 million to close the gap?
: This is an extremely difficult process because there is very little excess in the RPS
budget. The RBOE has always developed fiscally responsible budgets, which makes it
harder to find areas to cut. While other districts are attempting to save money by hiring
outside maintenance and food service contractors, the RPS district long ago implemented
those cost-saving moves.

We will close the gap by taking the following measures: reorganizing the
Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Department, as well as the Business Office;
eliminating positions in all areas of the district, including teaching, support staff and
administration; reducing co-curricular and athletic offerings; reducing staff development;
reducing capital/facilities maintenance projects; eliminating summer school and returning
teachers currently in non-teaching assignments to the classroom. Central office
administrators will not take any salary increases for 2009-2010 and a one-year contract
with the Ridgewood Administrators which includes a 1% reduction in the cost of
contract. Savings from breakage (the difference between a retiring, experienced teacher’s
compensation and the amount that we budget to replace that person), will also help close
the gap.

Our goal is to meet our statutory budgeting requirements while minimizing
impact on students, continuing to provide excellent educational experiences and
improving overall as a district. You can understand that this is a very difficult budgetary

The 2009-2010 Budget Process
It is the Ridgewood Board of Education’s mandate to present to voters a fiscally
responsible budget to voters every year.

Q: When does the budget process start?
A: School budget development starts in the fall (October) of the proceeding year.

Q: How does the process begin?
A: The process begins every year with projections of enrollment and revenue for the next
fiscal year, and input from the school and departments. The RBOE has been discussing
the 2009/2010 projected budget gap since the fall of 2008.

Q: How is the budget finalized?
A: The budget is developed by the district administration and presented to the RBOE for
preliminary approval. It must be submitted to the Bergen Executive County
Superintendent of Schools (ECS) by March 18th. The ECS reviews our budget and has
the authority to make line item cuts without appeal. The budget must be returned to the
BOE by March 30th. The RBOE is required to conduct its final budget hearing sometime
between March 30 and April 2nd. The BOE/Budget election is April 21, 2009.

Q: What about state/federal aid numbers for next year?
A: We have yet to receive our state/Federal aid numbers for next year. We are hopeful
that aid will be flat and that the federal stimulus package will increase the amount of aid
that we will receive. We will not know our aid figures until the middle of March.

Q: What does this mean for the Ridgewood Public Schools?
A: The district is and will remain fiscally sound. A commitment to excellence in
education continues to be our primary focus when developing the budget. We must
balance the needs of all students and all aspects of the educational process…all the parts
that as a whole that make Ridgewood special and excellent.
It is important to remember that Ridgewood is not alone in having to make hard
choices. Most districts throughout the state are facing similar financial challenges and
have to make the same kinds of difficult budgetary decisions.
Please take the time to familiarize yourself with the proposed 2009-2010 school
budget when it is presented to the public at BOE or other local meetings. For the sake of
our town, our schools and our children, go to the polls and vote on April 21.
We are facing tough financial times in our country, state, county and schools, as
well as in our homes. I look forward to working with the community to maintain our high
quality school system during these difficult times. Please feel free to contact me if you
have questions or suggestions, or e-mail budget10@ridgewood.k12.nj.us.

  1. Too general with the explanation of the personnel cuts. He’s hiding something.

  2. Makes sense since this was written before employees had a chance to be told that their jobs could be affected. This is from the 3/13 Ridgewood news so they had not made any specific announcements yet and they were not listing specifics, whixh is what Fishbein said at the 3/9 meeting.

  3. We know Fishbein is not being specific because if people found out the game of pass the trash he was playing, they would be up in arms. Danny and the Dingbats, are moving bad people out of Cottage Place and saddling others with them, meanwhile other administrators are forced to cut some of their best people.

    All in the interest of our children, right, Laurie? I suggest you do your job Laurie and find out what the hell is going on. Relaying solely on Dan, Angelo and Regina is not the smartest move you could make. Do your due diligence as a member of the BOE. Ignorance is not an excuse.

  4. Yes, Laurie please do your homework and don’t just listen to what the talking heads, er.. administrators tell you.

    For instance:

    Regina is incompetent. Why is she still here?

    Angela is overwhelmed because he is not fully capable. Why does he get expensive help?

    You have secretaries being paid like they are executives. What gives?

    Cottage place is making no cuts. They are moving really bad people into the schools to save them and simply hiring new ones. How does that improve our kids’ education, dumping the worst at the district right into the schools?

    The district’s entire scheme of math supervisory personnel is run amuck. I mean, can you even explain the need for so many supervisory personnel? You say you want to make the district function more efficiently, well start with math. Please clean up the patchwork administrative structures. It’s clogging the system.

  5. Great job by Dr Fishbein in explaining the situation, even if the nattering nabobs don’t get it.

    Keep up the good work, Laurie!

  6. Dear Ms. Goodman,

    9:19 AM’s comment, “Keep up the good work, Laurie!” is meant to placate you into believing that you don’t need to do any thing more than what you are already doing. I know you know, that that was written by some one at Cottage Place, right?

    What 9:19 is really saying to you is, “no need to ask anything but the most innocuous questions and then just nod your head in agreement when given the answer. After all, we are the experts — leave it to us to figure this out.” They don’t want you, or for that matter any other BOE member, challenging their combined wisdom. Just leave everything to Danny and the Dingbats. All will be fine.

    Fortunately for us Ms. Goodman, you have a responsibility to govern their behavior and ensure that our tax dollars are spent in an appropriate manner on behalf our our children. Your responsibility as a trustee couldn’t be more critical given the economic climate we presently face. Are you up to the task?

  7. ROFL 9:19! If they were doing such a good job as you point out, RPS wouldn’t be in the position we are in. AND don’t blame the state, we historically don’t get tons of $ from them. My goodness, if Ridegwood can’t fund its own schools, than nobody can and all is lost!

  8. Do any of the people posting here have any specific recommendations related to closing a $2.5 million budget gap?
    I believe that understanding the situation and “doing your homework” applies to all of the people who want to contribute to this blog.
    The District’s budget is not hidden. It is completely transparent to everyone in the community.
    9:54 – what’s he hiding? Read the budget and find it yourself. Then tell us.
    5:51 – how much would your recommendations, as vague as they are, save in real dollars? Anywhere close to $2.5 million? Read the budget, find some money there that’s wasteful, go to the BOE meetings, and make your specific recommendations.
    8:57 – define incompetent, specifically as it relates to all aspects of Regina’s job. How much, exactly, are secretaries paid? If you know, then let us all know, so we can address that situation. How many supervisory people do we have, exactly, in math? How does that compare with the other disciplines like English, Science, Foreign Language, etc. Do you know? And what are your recommendations – specifically – for cleaning up the patchwork administrative structures? Do you have any? If so, please share them, because we all really do want to hear constructive ideas.
    And finally, 9:19, I ask you…do you have any specific recommendations to make? If you don’t have the time, then please make the time. Read the budget. Remember, being a member of the BOE is an unpaid, volunteer position, and those people make the time…if you want to contribute, then you should make the time as well.
    11:58 – Specifics please. Do you know how much the budget is? Have you read it? Historically how much does Ridgewood get from the state? Can Ridgewood fund it’s own schools? How much of our budget goes to teacher’s salaries and benefits? If that number keeps growing at a faster rate than Ridgewood can fund it (and there IS a limit there – do you know what it is?) then what’s available to fund the rest of the budget?
    People, people…help SOLVE the problems by understanding the issues, and the rules surrounding them.
    And by the way, I know the answers to SOME of the questions I’ve raised…not all. I’m not criticizing the BOE or the District here…I’m asking those who are criticizing to please become informed.

  9. This is how you get a budget passed.

    You cut the art teacher and keep the $100,000 math administrator.

    Parents freak out and vote for more money to spend because they really like the art teachers.

    Then you blame special ed services so parents get mad at the special ed kids, which is really unfair.

    They should re-evaluate a lot kids getting speech and OT, some of them are borderline and could be released. The days of quickly diagnosing kids that teachers want pulled out of the classrom so they can have a break should be over.

  10. There was a meeting today that my wife went to at the Board of Ed building about exactly this stuff! She said that the Superintendent and others there answered very specific questions and that she really learned a lot.
    She said there were about 40 other people there, and they talked about the specific cuts that are being made and why.
    They are having another meeting this Thursday at 7:00pm (for those of us who go to work

  11. What about the parents of the kids that need OTor speech are to contribute (pay for some %) to the treatment (of course this will be done with the parents that could actually afford it)
    How many IT personnel do we pay for? maybe they can consolidate even more?
    Why do we need two secretaries in the elementary schools? Many executives of today do NOT have a personal secretary. I believe our principals can deal with not having a secretary JUST for themselves. If the arts and music can be consolidated I bet you the work of two secretaries could also be consolidated.
    What about reducing the amount of “traffic security” at the HS?
    What about asking parents to buy more supplies, so we can afford the art supervisor?
    What about going back to the math methodology that has worked for so long at the middle schools and stop the retraining of teachers (money!)?
    What about checking the curriculum department at BOE…they are TOO many people with just one VIEW?

  12. Dear 1:06PM,

    Yes, principals gave to cottage place their ideas for cutting costs while maintaining education services. You need to ask Cottage place why they refused such solid advice and instead will make cuts that will harm the education product. Once you get at that “political” explanation, then I will spend some time answering your questions.

    People inside that building talk all the time. They see first hand how incompetent so many of these six figure administrators are and they talk to members of the community. If you want to silence them, you may have to kill them. There are no secrets inside those walls. All the dirty laundry gets hung out to dry.

  13. 1:35 pm – please back up your statement that many kids receiving SL and OT services don’t need them. My experience is contrary to your opinion. My child is classified and used to receive them but no longer does. I have private evaluations indicating (strongly) that these services should be provided in a school setting. So far, I have had no luck getting the services back. I pay $150/hour for private OT, $90/hour for private language therapy and $60/hour for group social skills.

    WEEKLY COST FOR ME = $300.
    ANNUAL COST FOR ME = $15,600

    I believe many students have had their services reduced. There’s only so much money to go around and I think the district is taking a hard look at what services are absolutely necessary.

  14. How about all the administrators giving up percentage of their 6 figure salary and their cars and cell phones and take less on the perks of the job, like getting paid for unused sick days and the great benefit package they get when they retire. I would think that if all administrators in Bergen County did that the state could save big time.

  15. 1:35 I understand your dilemma. You have to fight for the services your child is entitled to in Ridgewood. My friend just moved to Kinnelon. Her son is in the HS there and they bend over backwards to provide every service he requires. They cannot do enough for him. He is even getting an extended school year with services and has improved so much since going there in last Sept.

  16. 3:08 PM,

    When has Cottage Place ever listened to any one? Why would we think they would listen to the principals. If truth be told, there are layers of educrats at Cottage Place that are redundant and useless. We should look there first. Do we really need all those curriculum administrators? A little reorganization, change the process and presto, I could cut at least a half a million dollars from Cottage Place tomorrow.

  17. The problem lies in the fact that our BOE views the administrators at Cottage Place as colleagues and not employees. Hence, their reluctence to eliminate unnecessary positions.

    Cottage Place is like every bureaucracy ever invented by man. It grows and grows. Never shrinks, is always protective of itself, never critical. It will sacrifice all around it before it ever looks inward at itself. Daniel Fishbein is far to weak a man to make the hard decisions necessary and cut the bloated bureaucracy at Cottage Place.

  18. There is plenty blame and complaints to go around locally, including everyone that stuck a sign in their lawn during the last contract go-round saying “Support Ridgewood Teachers” (it should have also said “at the expense of Ridgewood taxpayers). However it is misplaced. The real problem is Trenton. That is only going to change if the state constitution is changed to create fairness for taxpayers in suburban districts. How can you, as Ridgewood residents, look at the state school funding and not get sick. The Abbott funding absorbs most of the state funds and I think anyone would be hard pressed to say that the money given to these districts over the past three plus decades has made a significant difference. Paterson gets over $16,000/pupil in state aid alone!
    Ridgewood, and most every other district, doesn’t spend anywhere near that number in total per student.

    Every municipality in our area came into being largely due to school funding and siting disputes. Unfortunately, school funding can’t change without constitutional change. And, unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen as the entrenched constituencies aren’t for change as they don’t foot the bill. It would be best to start over. Secede from NJ and write a constitution that both protects the rights of the people and educates our children.

  19. The myth of "too much" administration lives on in Ridgewood! The Dept of Ed just came out with the comparative spending numbers. Ridgewd's ratio of administrators to students is 1:216. The Bergen county average is 1:155. Face it, our district is large. The largest in Bergen county. You need some administrators to manage things, who do you think is gonna do it, the teachers? ha!

    I asked about cutting at the ed center and found out that the biz office is being reorganized and streamlined, with five high-cost positions eliminated and three lower cost positions added.

    As to the curriculum & instruction office, i checked a bunch of other district websites and we don't have more staff than most, in fact many have more staff than us. Maybe you don't like the personalities or politics or ideologies of the people in our office but that's something else.

    At the ed ctr there is a single curriculum asst. superintendent (Botsford), which is a necessary position, esp for district as large as ridgewd. There's a single director beneath that position (Anspach), not unlike many other districts. Those two are responsible for ALL curriculum development, educational planning, staff development and assessment/testing. We also have a supervisor of Math 6-12 (Illaria) which parents like me see as a GOOD thing to have one person coordinating math, especially since we're coming off these past few years of math drama. One consistent person ensuring the smooth sequence from both middle schools through high school…makes good sense to me. Sounds like we care about math. Don't we? Shouldn't we?

  20. Great post by 9:49. Nice to see someone finally bring FACTS to the table about Ridgewood’s LOW administrative overhead.

  21. so 949 paying jane reilly $30,000 to spell check is the norm?

    and no offence but low cost for goverment is ultra high cost in the real world

  22. 9:49,
    the prinicpals are also responsible for the curriculum in each of their schools. Regina is a cut and paste gal. We can have that for $40,000, not the six figures she pulls down.

    Daniel Illaria is an ideologue when it comes to math. Bad news all around for our kids. We’d be much better without him. I trust our principals, not an ideologue like Illaria.

    Give Anspach Regina’s job and let’s call it a day. Make Regina head of testing and cut her salary in half.

    Get rid of Ilaria and let Jeff Nyhuis take over his duties.

  23. wtf? Jane Reilly has not worked for the district for years. Please, Im begging you, deal with reality. It makes the conversation so much more productive

  24. to 9:49
    In fact, the business office eliminated 5 people, of which 2 were part timers (little or no benefits) Added were 3 new full time positions and one secretary from the superintendent’s office is being added to the business office. In this “reorganization”, there will be 9 employees in the business office instead of 10. What looks like a $100,000 savings will probably cost taxpaypers more money due to the higher salaries these positions will command (one will be a supervisory position), added health benefits, and construction costs to move the offices, phones, internet, computers, etc.

  25. 10:53

    I think that Jane Reilly’s last day as a district consultant occurred two years ago. Reset your memory log.

    As to your second point, you’re not offensive, just wrong. “Government”, or public sector executives are most always paid less than comparable private sector executives. To wit, President Obama’s salary is less than $300K, which is about one week’s pay for the CEO of Hudson City Bank.

  26. 9:49… Dan Ilaria is such an asset, Regina didn’t invite him to participate on the math planning team. WOuldn’t it also make sense that Dan Ilaria be invovled in k-5 decisions? Anspach is responsible solely for math. That make 2 top admins specifically for math total close to $250,000. Plus we still have to spend thousands on outside consultants like Phl Daro from California. I don’t agree with you at all. Facts are hard to argue, has nothing to do with politics and ideology.

  27. 7:43 aka Charlie Tuna…. gotta love him. Blame the state, that’s classic.

  28. 9:49, “Sounds like we care about math.” When did you drink the Kool-Aid? Ileria is Botsford’s handmaiden in implementing constructivist math. Boy, where have you been?

  29. “LOW administrative overhead.” Is that benchmarking overhead against government waste, fraud and abuse or by typical business standards?

  30. blaming jane reilly is *so* 2007…next they'll be blamining bill clinton & whitewater…

  31. I’m no fan of the BOE, but the state is the problem.

  32. The state has nothing to do with this, 3:31. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

  33. Maybe we should go the other way then and let the state take over the Board? You’re the one drinking Kool-Aid if you think this same discussion isn’t going on in every other town around here. Maybe you need to get out more…

  34. 4:25- the state has MUCH to do with this….get real! Look at the school funding formula and get back to us

  35. Charlie Tuna, if you’re no fan of the BOE, than you’re no Charlie Tuna.

  36. The district is cutting the 6 lead teachers but then turning them into 3 reading recovery teachers and 2 staff developers – that is not change – that is moving titles around – why don’t the principals do the staff developing – they have the PhDs?…still sounds like it is administration top heavy.

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