The School District of the Chathams will receive $925,725 in state aid for the upcoming academic year.
This number represents an increase of $517,006 from last year when the state reduced aid to Chatham schools by over $2.58 million, or 86 percent of the amount received in 2009-2010.
With this aid, which school board members feared would be further cut or eliminated entirely, the projected budget shortfall for the next year, previously estimated at $1,030,604, stands at $104,879. With enrollment, however, this number may change again before the next meeting of the Board of Education on Monday.
School Superintendent Jim O'Neill said of the news, "We [are] delighted we will get back one fifth of the state aid we lost this year. It will save positions maybe a program and hopefully reduce the tax levy."
During his budget address to the state Legislature on Tuesday, Christie announced that he was increasing the total amount of education aid by $250 million in the next state budget. Districts from Morris County will see an overall increase of more than $13 million.
Last year, the governor sharply reduced aid to schools, including several in Morris County. Some districts, including Madison, saw their state aid eliminated entirely. At the time, many districts had been making plans for their budgets based on suggestions of more modest cuts by the state Department of Education.
"I agonized over making cuts to education aid last year," the governor said in his budget address. "They were the very last cuts I approved. It was not a decision I took lightly. It was not something I wanted to do. However, in a year where shared sacrifice was required from everyone, it was a necessary choice."
Before the amount of Chatham's state aid was released, O'Neill commented on Christie's speech, saying, "Everyone agrees the state was and continues to face difficult fiscal decisions. I am not convinced that this justified reducing our aide by 86 percent and I am confident both the excellence of our educational program and the prudent way we spend taxpayer dollars make us more than deserving of any additional aide."
Steve Barna called the increase "encouraging" and "very welcome news," but said he did not yet know precisely how the increase, which is entirely in the category of Security Aid, will affect the overall budget.
The next meeting of the Board of Education is Monday, when the detailed proposed budget will be available to the public. At that meeting, members of the public will be able to give the board their opinions on whether there should be a second question on the ballot to make up for the shortfall.
Board members and O'Neill said they welcomed any comment from the public before that meeting.
The budget must be sent to Serafino's office by March 4. Another open Budget Advisory Committee meeting will be held on March 22 at 7 p.m., and a public hearing will be held on the budget at the Board of Education meeting on March 28.
April 6 is the last day to register to vote for school elections. Residents who wish to vote using a mail-in ballot, which is available through the Morris County Clerk's office, must send in their requests by April 20. The application can be picked up in person until April 26 at 3 p.m.
School elections will be April 27 from 2 until 9 p.m. at Chatham Middle School's upper gymnasium for borough residents and at Gymnasium C at Chatham High School for township residents.
One spot is open on the Board of Education for a borough representative. Another township spot may open up. Anyone wishing to run for the Board of Education can pick up a packet from the district office in the Chatham Township Municipal Building.
State Aid to the School District of the Chathams:
|K-12 2010-2011 Total Aid:||$408,719|
|Education Adequacy Aid:||$0|
|Special Education Categorical Aid:||$0|
|K-12 2011-2012 Total Aid:||$925,725|
|One Year Aid Change:||$517,006|