Monroe Township Board of Education tables budget

Disagreements among Monroe Township board members at their March 11 meeting  resulted in the tabling of a new budget and a lingering uncertainty.

Board President Frederick Powell resigned during the meeting and Dr. Richard Perry, superintendent of schools, was voted out by a majority of the board. Meanwhile, Vice President Jeffery Simpler proposed a meeting to have been held on March 16 to determine an actual increase and possibly agree on a 1 percent budget.

“I would like to see 1 percent,” said board member Mike D’Andrea. “I’d love to go to zero, but I think what we’re making up for in this budget is lost time.”

Before he was voted out, Perry provided an update on the district’s current financial standing.

“There is $2.7 million more in state aid this year than last year,” he said. “The Monroe Township School district is still short $12,000,000 a year. We are $7,000,000 under our adequacy spending.”

“We’re trying not to cut staff,” said Business Administrator and Board Secretary Lisa Schulz. “This budget allows us to maintain all of our programs. ”

In terms of increased school staff to meet required needs, the board is adding mental health counselors at the high school and middle school. Hollyglen Elementary will have a science teacher and Oak Knell Elementary will get a fourth grade teacher. A physical education teacher will be added at White Hall Elementary.

A key topic during the public forum portion of the meeting was implementation of full-day kindergarten in September.

“I think you should talk to your administration about the $83,000,000 preschool expansion grant that’s out there,” said resident Judy Spanos, referring to funds from the U.S. Department of Education.

“I think this would be a huge step forward.”

“I also support full-day kindergarten, said resident Danny Soto, “and I think it’s important that we understand that we can’t be led by fear.

“We’re hearing a lot about the daycare cost being $25,000,” he added. “There are choices out there for what can and can not be. You can’t just let that drive the cost, because if that’s how much we’re spending on a budget for full-day kindergarten, then we’re not managing our own budget well.”

Perry addressed residents’ concerns about the issue, noting that since the district was able to acquire $2.7 million more in state aid this year — and if the same amount or higher is available next year — a full-day kindergarten program could possibly be established.