Borough of Brielle, NJ
| May 13, 2010
May 13, 2010
MAY 13th, 2010 MINUTES OF A SPECIAL MEETING START: 7:40 PM.
PRESENT: MAYOR NICOL, COUN. GARRUZZO, GORHAM, NOLAN, SCOTT, SHAAK & VISCEGLIA. ATTORNEY MONTENEGRO & ADMINISTRATOR NOLAN.
(NOTE: Coun. Shaak excused himself as his spouse is a teacher at the Brielle Elementary School.)
The meeting was convened in compliance with the requirements of the 48 hour notice as specified in the Open Public Meetings Act. Then following a moment of silent prayer, a salute to the flag and a roll call, the Mayor recognized Finance Chairman Visceglia who advised the public that he, along with Councilmen Garruzzo & Nolan had reviewed the School Budget, met with members of the Board of Education and also received comments from members of the public.
Mr. Visceglia noted that a primary concern had been a fear that the number of teachers would be reduced and the quality of education adversely impacted. Yet he added that the Board itself had proffered that they could sustain $107,000 to the salary and benefit accounts. Coun. Visceglia believed that the Committee's recommendation to reduce the budget by $185,000 would not result in either eventuality.
The Mayor opened the floor for Council comments. Coun. Garruzzo cited his meetings with the Board of Education and noted that both sides were in a difficult position. He acknowledged that the children were important, but added that the voters had spoken. The Committee and the Board had both done their due diligence in an effort to reach a compromise, but in the end it proved too difficult. Nevertheless, he believed that the Committee had "done the best job it could".
Coun. Scott applauded the negotiating team and added that she expected the process to be a lot harder. She was thrilled that the end number was $185,000 as it could have been higher. Coun. Scott also believed that both sides had done the best job possible under difficult conditions and she complimented both sides on the civil discussion held at the Monday, May 10th, 2010 Council Meeting and stated that she was particularly impressed by the Elementary School students and how they articulated their views and concerns at that meeting.
Coun. Nolan who pointed out that the primary concern of the children who spoke on May 10th was Question #2. Unfortunately that question cannot be reinstated. He advised the assembly that they had to look to themselves and to volunteers along with a self-funding mechanism to find a way to provide for the programs eliminated by the failure of Question #2 to pass.
Mayor Nicol opened the meeting to the public and recognized Jennifer McGuire, 642 Susan Lane, who asked if the $107,000 that equated to Governor Christie's recommendation for a 5% reduction had been itemized in the resolution? Coun. Visceglia advised that it had been and it was anticipated that the savings could be realized by a freeze of teacher's salaries. (Note: Later in the meeting the Clerk would read the entire resolution into the record).
Board Member Julia Barnes, 626 Woodland Avenue, advised the public that Question #2 had been segregated from the budget question as it exceeded the cap of 4%. The cap included mandated costs such as the tuition paid to Manasquan High School and Brielle would be sending the largest class ever to that institution. There had also been a revision to the "two-year rule" that now required Brielle to pay their tuition arrears to Manasquan High School. In 2011-2012 there would be a 2.5% cap and no waivers would be granted. All these factors put the School Board in a difficult position and the total budget increase would have been 15%.
In order to try and maintain vital programs deemed to be "non-mandated" by the state, the Board had taken items such as sports, drama, band and placed them in a second question. Ms. Barnes added that the Board was currently in negotiations with the Teachers Union and the current contract ended on June 30th. She stated that there was no contract to freeze.
Ms. Barnes added that the Brielle Elementary School had the lowest administrative costs per pupil in Monmouth County, that benefits were part of the on-going collective bargaining process that fifteen teachers had been cut over the past two years, along with the Governor reducing School Aid by $566,000.
Ms. Barnes advised the Council of the escalating cost of Special Education and the Board's attempt to reduce costs by establishing an in-house program. She noted that the cost of tuition to send a single child to the Douglas Program at Rutgers was $100,000. In closing she added that the Board had reduced their budget by 4% prior to placing it on the ballot any additional reductions would be untenable.
Robert Fuller, 703 Evergreen Avenue, stated that he was the Principal of the Perth Amboy Vocational School; he lamented the cuts as he cited his first hand experience as to the adverse impact of increased class-size on the children. He noted that, in his experience, lower grades with small class size, i.e. 3rd through 5th, saw an increase in test scores, but when class size increased in the upper grades the test results went down and children fell behind. He commended Superintendent Carlson and the teachers and added that he felt for those residents who were suffering during this period of economic turn-down, but he reminded the Council that people moved to Brielle because of the quality of education the school offered. Failure to maintain the school would equate to a decline in property values.
School Business Administrator Edward McManus, 528 Woodland Avenue, was recognized, and he provided the following report (see insertion).
Robert Houseal, 608 Rankin Road, who had questioned the cost per pupil figure on May 10th, replied to Mr. McManus that all he wanted was the School's gross domestic product, in other words, the total expenditures including debt service, tuition to other schools and busing and how that number equates to cost per pupil and how it compares to other sending districts.
Bob Pellegrino, 533 Harris Avenue, pointed out that other Councils when faced with need to reduce a failed school budget had made minimal cuts. Avon cut $20,000, Spring Lake Height $50,000 and Bradley Beach had cut $30,000. None of these districts were as efficient as Brielle. He asked why the number was so high when only a few years ago the reduction had been zero? He argued that, assuming an average assessment of $650,000, every $100,000 cut equated to $39.00 per household, per annum. He believed that any reduction above $100,000 made no sense.
Scott Kenneally, 624 Locust Road, advised that the failure of the second question had decimated the school. He advised the Council that, if they voted yes for the budget on April 20th, they should now vote yes to keep the budget where it was and to make no cuts. This, he said, would show people where the respective Councilmembers stood.
Christine Carlson, Superintendent of the Brielle Elementary School, stated that she knew when she came to Brielle that six budgets had failed in recent years. She proffered that each failed budget set the school back two years. Ms. Carlson noted the Governor advocating voting "no" on school budgets had further adverse impact on the process. Ms. Carlson lamented the drop-out rate nationwide and in New Jersey, she believed that the children deserved a quality education and she had been surprised to find "new" computers that were eight years old in some classrooms and many more than fifteen years old in others. This was a cause of concern.
Ms. Carlson cited the success-full literacy program in grades K to 5 and the new math programs being implemented. Brielle strove for high standards, but lack of funding would impede the ability to provide for a thorough and efficient education. The failure of Question #2 ended all non-mandated programs. The nineteen year tradition of full day kindergarten was ended. Ms. Carlson offered that she saw no alternative save to take the issue to the Commissioner of Education and fight for a restoration of the cuts proposed by Council.
Ms. Carlson thanked the Finance Committee for their work, but stated that it was hard to understand their recommendation. She also thanked the three Councilmembers who had attended the recent school play, but added that it would be the last one as the drama club was being eliminated. She also foresaw larger class sizes and a decline in the quality of education. Ms. Carlson reiterated that the next step would be an appeal to Superintendent Carol Morris.
Mr. McManus was again recognized and he distributed a hand out on the defeated school budget process to the Council.
The public portion was closed on a motion by Coun. Scott, seconded by Coun. Nolan.
Coun. Garruzzo, seconded by Coun. Gorham, introduced Resolution 10-50 (see insertion with vote).
Coun. Scott, when casting her vote, took exception to Mr. Kenneally's comments concerning the way members of Council voted at the polls. That was a private matter and each Councilmember voted in accordance with what they deemed to be in the best interest of all the public. Coun. Visceglia also noted that his committee had worked with the Board of Education and the Board itself had felt it could accept a $107,000 reduction. While both sides could not agree on a final number the Finance Committee believed that the cuts were appropriate.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 pm on a motion by Coun. Garruzzo, seconded by Coun. Gorham.
Approved: May 24th, 2010 _________________________
Thomas F. Nolan Municipal Clerk
Good Evening Mayor Nicol and Members of the Brielle Borough Council-Council President Mrs. Scott, Mr. Visceglia, Mr. Shaak, Mr. Gorham, Mr. Nolan, Mr. Garruzzo and Borough Administrator Mr. Nolan
I would like to take a few minutes to clarify misinformation that was presented by members of the public at the Monday Night May 10th, 2010 Council meeting when members of the public were allowed to comment on the Brielle School Budget. As I stated that evening, it would have been much more productive for those members to attend a school board meeting-however they chose to a different forum. This information was both incorrect and misleading and that is a bit of an understatement. And as what happens with sensational information, some of it makes its way to the Newspapers and the louder it gets stated, the more people tend to believe this misinformation. Let me start with:
1) An individual from off of Rankin Road in Brielle stated at the Monday Night Town Council Meeting that the he heard that "We (Brielle District) had the lowest cost district in terms of education of our kids." He requested the Council to check that fact. And now I quote this individual from the actual recording: "I am told that number is manipulated. I think the number is much higher" and the individual closed his comments by stating that "A leader defines reality." I hope you don't mind if I repeat that.
-Well here's a reality check for the individual. The New Jersey Department of Education generates a Comparative Spending Guide each year which provides officials and the public the opportunity to review and compare various components of a school district's annual budget to similar districts in the state through a series of "indicators' presenting costs on a per pupil basis. The document relies on various data sources. The 2007-08 and 2008-2009 actual expenditure data originate from the districts Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (Annual Independent Audit) that were certified by the districts public school accountants in each of these years. The 2009-2010 budgeted appropriation data use the districts' original 2009-2010 budgets that were certified for taxes.
-The enrollment used to calculate the per pupil costs are from the prior two years School Register Summaries submitted by districts for each of these years and the October 2009 projected enrollments included in the 2009-2010 annual budget certified for taxes. The per pupil cost calculations are based on the number of students educated in the district rather than the district resident enrollment. Students who are educated outside of the home district on a tuition basis are not included in the enrollment of the home district-meaning that the Brielle students attending Manasquan-both the number of students and the associated tuition are not included in the cost calculation.
-Only costs that were considered to be similar among districts were included in the per pupil calculation. Costs considered unique to districts were not included such as grants, debt service, transportation expenses and interest on principal.
-The per pupil cost indicator presented in the New Jersey Comparison Spending Guide represents the audited expenditures in the applicable categories as explained in the indicator description divided by the average daily enrollment for the school year. The point is that this is a New Jersey Department of Education report based on independently audited results and cannot be manipulated.
-Ok now let's present the real data based on real information and not manipulated information.
-The Brielle Elementary School is compared statewide to districts with similar sized enrollment and educating students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Of the 64 similar sized districts in the state, Brielle has the third lowest cost per pupil in the state as compared to similar sized districts at $10,395 per pupil.
-When the Brielle Elementary School is compared to schools in Monmouth County only, Brielle has the lowest cost per pupil in Monmouth County.
-Administratively Brielle has the fourth lowest cost administratively in the state
-The New Jersey Department of Education County Monmouth Executive Superintendent of Schools issues a letter every year to school districts providing a review of existing budgets, state efficiency indicators and recommendations for cost improvements to districts. In a letter given to the district in December, 2009, and posted for months on the school web site, the district received no recommendations. The Department of Education commended the district for its "ability to be efficient and maintain quality education." I am not aware of any district in Monmouth County that received no cost efficiency recommendation from the New Jersey Department of Education.
-OK – if I could I would like to bring this closer to home. On Tuesday I called the Monmouth County Executive School Business Administrator, Mr. Joseph Passiment, Jr., and told him that there was a current gap in the discussion with Council and misperception/mis-representation on the part of members of the public. His response was one of surprise when he stated-you mean your town does not understand that the Brielle Elementary School is the "most efficient district in Monmouth County?" My response was-some do, some do not, and some will not ever believe it no matter how it is proven.
-I complete my first comments by stating what the member of the public stated-"Remember Leadership defines reality".
-The second issue I would like to address is a statement from an individual living at Waters Edge in Brielle who stated on Monday night" that the school district has gotten 99.47% of every dime they has asked for" over the past seven years. That one made the Coast Star in today's edition.
-I would like to bring reality and facts back to this discussion.
-the 2006-2007 Brielle School Budget was defeated and under resolution number 06-07 on the May 8th, 2006 Council meeting, the Council removed $200,000 from the Brielle School Budget. This was modified in the Brielle School Budget under item 11.B.7 at the May 17, 2006 Brielle Board of Education meeting.
-in the 2004-2005 budget year, the Brielle Town Council removed $30,000 from the Brielle School budget
-in the 2003-2004 budget year, the Brielle Board of Education proposed a budget of $7,759,089 and the budget was defeated. The final tax levy was $7,688,669 which was a reduction from the Brielle Borough Town Council of $129,580.
-in the 2002-2003 budget year, the Brielle Board of Education requested $7,371,905. The Brielle Town Council removed $247,563 for a final tax levy that year of $7,124,342 at the May 20th, 2002 Regular Action Meeting
-So the total reduced by the Brielle Town Council for the since 2002 is $607,143. The Brielle Board of Education requested $4,566,064. This means that the Brielle Board of Education has received about 87% of the request to the public. Now that's a far cry from the 99.47% amount that the individual on Waters Edge in Brielle stated.
-The third issue I would like to address is the infamous phantom playground. Yes it is true that the Brielle Board of Education had allocated funding in the amount of $12,500 for playground material in the 2007-2008 budget year and I have been saying this for years. The actual cost of a new school playground is in the $80,000 range and this $12,500 would have been a contribution from the Board of Education to the overall cost. The district had looked to fund a new playground, primarily through outside sources. There had been a campaign nationwide to introduce more free/play time into children's schedule. Mrs. Carlson with the Brielle Board of Education evaluated the expense and changed directions for the use of capital funds in order to implement Smart Board Technology into the classroom for the benefit of improving student achievement, the first goal of the District's Strategic Plan. By the end of the summer, through the generosity of the Brielle Educational Foundation and the Brielle PTO and many Brielle Town Council members attended these fundraisers-thank you-, there were 17 Promethean Smart Board deployed throughout the school. The cost of a Promethean Smart Board is approximately $5,000 per unit and this funding was used to purchase Smart Boards. It is the responsibility of the Superintendent to implement programs which-as the Educational Expert in the district-she deems necessary to the benefit of the students. Please remember that in Mrs. Carlson's prior assignment as Superintendant of the Plumsted/New Egypt School district, the student achievement of the Plumsted/New Egypt seniors and juniors had recorded the highest scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests in Ocean County Schools. That means higher test scores than districts of significantly higher socio economic means such as Point Pleasant Beach and Toms River. Simply put, Mrs. Carlson knows how to make students achieve. She knows how to make a great and successful school. She is the Educational Expert that can define and attest to a thorough and efficient education for our students. Since the issue of the phantom playground has come up, I have seen a number of public comments primarily from the same address on the NJ.com Brielle blog over the years stating that the school was misleading as far as the appropriation of funds. Some of the comments on the bloggers can be borderline slanderous. I can tell you that last year I had posted a Frequently Asked Question and answer which addressed the phantom playground because the blogger kept on bringing it up. The question was not much of a Frequently Asked Question but the answer was there for the public to see on the Brielle School web site. I state all the time I work in a glass office and if I have something to hide, let me know.
In summary I believe what frequently happens is that if members of the public continue to state fallacies, which after awhile people begin to believe those fallacies. I thank the public officials for hearing me out this evening and I urge the public to trust your fine elected officials. Please remember they work to serve you the public.
Thank you very much
RESOLUTION NO: 10-50
DATE: MAY 13th, 2010
RESOLUTION OF THE BOROUGH COUNCIL OF
THE BOROUGH OF BRIELLE CONCERNING THE
BOROUGH COUNCIL’S REVIEW OF THE ANNUAL
SCHOOL BUDGET FOR THE 2010-2011 SCHOOL YEAR
WHEREAS, on April 20th, 2010, the annual school budget for the academic year 2010-2011, as prepared by the Borough of Brielle Board of Education (hereinafter referred to as “Board”), was submitted to the voters of the Borough and was defeated; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 18A: 22-37, the General Fund Budget for the year 2010-2011 has been presented to the Borough Council (hereinafter referred to as “Council”) for its determination of the amount necessary to be appropriated for each item appearing in the General Fund budget; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey State Statute requires the Council to certify the amount of local tax revenue to support a thorough and efficient system of education where a tax levy referendum of the Board is defeated by the voters of a municipality; and
WHEREAS, in the course of reviewing the defeated school budget, the Council and the Borough’s professional staff, both independently and with representatives of the Board, conducted a series of meetings which are set forth on Schedule “A” annexed hereto and made a part hereof; and
WHEREAS, in fulfilling its legal obligations, the Borough Council has thoroughly considered, reviewed and discussed all documents and materials provided by the Board; and
WHEREAS, the Council finds that (1) the provision of a thorough and efficient system of quality education to the children of the Borough of Brielle is of the highest priority and utmost importance to the Council, the Board, the parents, children and all citizens of the Borough of
Brielle; and (2) the provision of such an educational system is essential to the continued development of the community and the future of our children; and
WHEREAS, the Council further finds that: (1) the provision of educational services to the children of our community, as the provision of all governmental services, should be rendered in a cost effective manner; that all reasonable and necessary administrative efforts should be made to realize economies in the provision of educational services so as to avoid unnecessary expenditure of public funds, particularly in administrative, operational and maintenance aspects of the school system which do not directly relate to the quality of education provided to our children; and (2) the Board and all public bodies should be mindful of the fact that the ever increasing tax burden upon our taxpayers must not be unnecessarily increased; and
WHEREAS, the Council has determined that certain line items in the annual school budget for the year 2010-2011 proposed by the Board may be reduced without any adverse effect upon the quality of education which is provided to the students of the Borough of Brielle school system, which reductions are set forth in this Resolution; and
WHEREAS, the reasons for each such reduction in the annual school budget have been considered and addressed by the Council and are set forth in detail in Schedule “B” annexed hereto and made a part hereof; and
WHEREAS, the Council has been both reasonable and conservative in its review and recommended reductions in the line items specified.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Borough Council of the Borough of Brielle as follows:
1. The Council, after due consideration and consultation with the Board, hereby finds and determines that the following line items contained in the annual school budget for the school year 2010-2011 can be reduced without negative effect upon the thorough and efficient provision of public education in the Borough, as follows:
Line Item Council
Series No. Description Reduction
11-120-100-101-00-01 Grades 1-5 Regular $50,000.00
11-120-100-101-00-02 Grades 1-5 Other $12,500.00
11-130-100-101-00-01 Grades 6-8 Regular $50,000.00
11-130-100-101-00-02 Grades 6-8 Other $12,500.00
11-190-100-610-00 General Supplies $10,000.00
11-190-100-640-00 Textbooks $10,000.00
11-000-230100-00 Administrative $10,000.00
11-401-100-100-00 Salaries-Student $ 5,000.00
11-000-291-270-00 Health Benefits $15,000.00
11-000-230-331-00 Legal Services $ 5,000.00
11-000-310-930-00 Salary Food Services $ 5,000.00
The supporting reasons for each line item reduction shown above are set forth on
Schedule “B” annexed hereto, which the Council hereby adopts as its expression of reasons for the line item reductions made to the 2010-2011 annual school budget.
2. The Council hereby certifies to the Monmouth County Board of Taxation and to the Monmouth County Superintendent of Schools the following amount relating to the General Fund to be raised by local taxation for the Borough of Brielle School District in the 2010-2011 school year, is as follows:
a. The original tax levy for General Fund contained
on the ballot pertaining to the 2010-2011 annual school budget of the Borough of Brielle Board of Education
was as follows: $ 11,462,991.00
b. The total amount of the net reduction in the
General Fund found by the Borough Council to be
Appropriate is as follows:
Reductions contained in Paragraph 1 $185,000.00
The amount of the tax levy hereby certified by the
Borough Council of the Borough of Brielle to the
Monmouth County Board of Taxation and to the
Monmouth County Superintendent of Schools for
2010-2011 General Fund as follows: $11,277,991.00
3. The Council hereby certifies that the revised school budget for Borough of Brielle for the year 2010-2011 containing the line item reductions as noted above, in accordance with the reasons for such reductions as expressed here, is sufficient to provide a thorough and efficient system of education in the Borough of Brielle for the 2010-2011 school year.
4. The Borough Clerk be and is hereby authorized and directed to file a certified copy of this Resolution with the Board of Education of the Borough of Brielle no later than May 19th, 2010.
5. The Borough Clerk be and is hereby further authorized and directed to file two (2) certified copies of this Resolution with Carole Knopp Morris, the Executive Monmouth County Superintendent of Schools and with Monmouth County Board of Taxation no later than May 19th, 2010.
VOTE: AYES NAYS ABSTAIN ABSENT DISOUALIFY
5 5 0 0 0 1
DISQUALIFY: Shaak as spouse is employed by School System.
This is to certify that the foregoing Resolution was adopted by the Borough Council of the Borough of Brielle at a special public business meeting held on May 13th, 2010.
Thomas F. Nolan