Ridgewood School Board Deliberates on 2024-2025 Budget and Policies

In a recent meeting, the Ridgewood School Board focused on the tentative budget for the 2024-2025 school year and proposed policy changes. The budget, set at $138,500,000, emphasized maintaining programs within a 2% tax levy cap, prioritizing capital projects, and addressing cost drivers such as union negotiations, special education, and healthcare benefits. New course offerings and the impact of enrollment trends were also discussed. Proposed policy changes included classroom sizes, capital expenditure funding, and public access to information. The meeting included public commentary and debate on various financial and operational strategies.

The budget presentation detailed the preliminary figures for the upcoming school year, underscoring the challenges of rising costs in areas like teacher and secretarial salaries, health benefits, special education, transportation, and utilities. Efforts to absorb surplus funds from the previous year’s audit into the new budget were discussed to mitigate the impact of these cost drivers. The board members evaluated the use of fund balance, extraordinary aid, and anticipated state aid as sources of revenue.

Capital projects were a focal point, with plans to bid out three significant initiatives. The board discussed a 2% tax levy increase from the previous year, with particular attention on healthcare cost adjustments and the availability of banked cap, which allows districts to increase the tax levy beyond the 2% cap under certain conditions.

Enrollment trends prompted discussions on the possibility of attracting tuition-paying students from other countries to counteract the potential decline in local student numbers. A member of the public suggested that the district could explore innovative programs to address learning loss from COVID-19 and attract more students.

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The board also discussed class size at the high school, the utilization of classrooms, and expressed concerns about the reliance on surplus and reserves for funding the budget. They noted the importance of transparency, especially regarding changes to the high school math program sequencing, and the need to monitor enrollment numbers and budget allocations closely.

Policy changes were a significant topic during the meeting, with debate on the rotation policy and legal services. The process for seeking legal guidance was scrutinized, with board members expressing the need for clarity in the existing policy. Additionally, internet searches by the public to clarify legal matters were mentioned. Concerns were raised about document management for agenda and minutes, with a preference for using PDFs to ensure stability and prevent potential deletions.

The upcoming superintendent’s state of the school report was mentioned, with an emphasis on the need for survey data to prepare for it. The meeting also touched on advocacy for legislation to address the teacher shortage and updates from various committee reports, including curriculum, finance, facilities, and communications. The curriculcommittee reported on the development of a middle school program of studies, while the Finance committee discussed the middle school 101 course and the Facilities committee talked about progress on capital projects.

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The Communications committee reported on a website redesign and the technical challenges of data migration and accessibility. The board also discussed the Master Library’s role in field usage and maintenance, emphasizing the need to update the field usage policy.

In closing, the board discussed the school calendar for the 2025-2026 year, focusing on the impact of professional development days and the timing of summer programs. The possibility of starting the school year before Labor Day was debated, considering traditional New Jersey school start dates and the implications for sports and summer programs.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Superintendent:
Mark Schwarz
School Board Officials:
Sheila Brogan, Muhammad Mahmoud, Hyunju Kwak, Saurabh Dani, Mary Micale

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