Brick Schools Deal With Aid Cuts

From left: Board of Education member Stephanie Wohlrab, acting Superintendent Dennis Filippone, and Board President John Lamela discuss funding cuts. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – The school administration was forced to revise the 2017-2018 school year budget after getting word that the district would be receiving a $720,507 reduction in state aid.

On March 2, 2017, the NJ Department of Education (DOE) said Brick would receive $36,249,310 in state aid, but on July 14, the district was notified that that number had been cut to $35,528,803.

School districts that were affected by the loss of state aid had the option of “using surplus to maintain their budget appropriations or reduce appropriations.”

The Brick Board of Education voted to do both: as a result of discussions held between the administration and Board members, some $361,934 of surplus would be utilized, and appropriations would be reduced by $358,573 to make up for the reduction of state aid.

Business administrator James Edwards and acting superintendent Dennis Filippone met with each of the board members one-on-one to go over the cuts, said Board of Education President John Lamela.

“We worked hard on the budget for July 1, and the state cutting that budget after July 1…I don’t have words,” Lamela said during a special meeting held on July 27.

The DOE notice required districts with revised state aid to hold a public meeting no later than August 1 to address the reduction. Afterwards, districts must submit “a narrative detailing the budget adjustment plan to be implemented,” that includes a worksheet of line items and accounts impacted by the plan, and a copy of the Board resolution adopting the plan.

(Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Edwards said that at the end of the DOE notice there was an indication that there was an “opportunity to make your case” through an appeals process.

The notice says that districts that received notification of a reduction in general fund state aid, and are able to demonstrate fiscal distress, may apply for additional state assistance, read Edwards.

“So we don’t really understand yet what that additional state assistance is, so if that’s yet to be determined…there’s no guidelines on it,” he said.

“We’ve been asking, both myself and Mr. Filippone and Mr. Gialanella, who has been assisting us on this matter, we’re in constant communication with our legislative offices and also with the DOE, trying to get guidance on that state assistance,” Edwards said. “We’ll continue pursuing that.”

Some of the cuts include a reduction in spending for Child Study Team educational services equipment, which concerned board hopeful Jessica Clayton, who spoke during public comment.

“Could you explain the cut to the Child Study Team, what that’s going to be, and how it’s going to affect our children with special needs?” she asked.

The Brick Board Of Education Office. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Filippone said there would be no cuts to Child Study Team services or staff, but there would be savings by substituting the cost of the planned purchase of online program for IEPs and replacing it with a free program developed by David Kasyan, who is the new principal at Emma Havens Young Elementary School. Kasyan was most recently an assistant principal in Jackson.

“Just in conversation…we were discussing the program and [Kasyan] said that while at Jackson he had developed a similar online program using the Google platform, which our district is moving towards, and that he would be glad to share that with us and bring it to Brick,” Filippone explained.

Board member Victoria Pakala said she appreciates all the cost savings in the different areas and putting off some priorities “that are just going to have to wait.”

“I am concerned about safety and security issues, but there isn’t anything that I see on these cuts that would causing danger or insecure positions for our students, as long as we keep them as a priority for when funding may be restored – if it is restored,” she said.

For a complete list of the revised budget, visit mms.brickschools.org, and then click on meeting agenda for the July 27 special meeting.

The next Board of Education meeting will be on Tuesday, August 10 at 7 p.m. at Brick High School.

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Judy moved to Ocean County from New York City in 1988, and began her second career as a feature and news reporter in the mid-1990's. She has worked for Micromedia Publications since 2008, primarily reporting for The Toms River Times and The Brick Times. Judy has also worked for The Leader Review in Point Pleasant Beach, The Brick Communicator and The Asbury Park Press. Reach Judy by e-mail at [email protected]