Before addressing the Lenape Regional High School District budget for 2021-’22 at the April 29 board of ed meeting, school Superintendent Dr. Carol L. Birnbohm shared some achievements the four high schools have accomplished.
“We held our all-school wellness day for both in-person students and virtual students,” said Birnbohm. “They were able to choose from a variety of activities and attend group seminars, such as the first use of pet therapy.”
David Stow, chair of the board’s finance committee, began his presentation with a rundown of current state funding the district should receive, versus what it will receive. Despite having more students involved in special-education programs, the amount of funding from the state is decreasing as each school year goes by.
The district will have 331 incoming freshmen next year in an individualized education program. This year, it will graduate 193 students in an Individualized Education Program, an increase of 130 students who need extra assistance.
“The state considers 15.4 percent is the number of special-education students that you should have to get $4.2 million for our special-education program,” Stow said. “But 19 percent of our students are special needs, and it costs us $8.3 million to educate. Now there’s a $4 million difference.”
The state used to give out the same funding each year for school districts, regardless of whether there was an increase in the local state tax or a decline in enrollment. It wasn’t until 2018 that the state voted to have the funding fluctuate each year depending on the district.
That greatly affected the Lenape district, because New Jersey can reduce funding based on the amount of money the district owes to the state.
“The reductions that take place are happening right now, and will continue to happen until the year 2024-’25, Stow explained. “If you accumulate over the years that you’re paying to do this, we’re actually losing $26.2 million, which means $26.3 million our constituents have to pay, as well as continuing to pay their taxes in the state of New Jersey.”
Eighty-five percent of Lenape funding comes from the community. By the year 2024-’25, the school district will receive 14 percent of its funding from the state, the lowest amount in its history, according to Stow.
With little support from the state, the finance committee worked on a plan to create community support and collaboration to find and save the extra amount of funding needed by the district.
“We’re not replacing positions through retirements; we are increasing our class sizes, their transportation reductions, and eliminating tourist buses for anything 2.5 miles, Stow said.
The school district did receive $275,444 in coronavirus relief from the state, but it cost almost $1 million to prepare facilities, teachers, and students for the return to school, explained to Stow.
“We take money out of our emergency reserve fund, which is now zero,” Stow added. “Take it for what you want; it’s not gonna be pretty this year.”
In other news:
- Birnbohm announced that with the state announcing new guidance on outdoor capacity, all four high schools will be able to host graduations in one ceremony outside.
- The board approved the motion 8.1 to 8.3, to remove provisions that limit students transitioning from full-time remote to in person; the first reading of policy 1648: the restart and recovery plan and policy 9242; use of electronic signatures.
- The board approved the motion of 9.1 to 9.11, which included new hires, substitute staff, salary adjustments, promotions, and leave of absence.
- The board approved the motion of 14.1 to 4.13, which allows credit completion, summer enrichment programs, and donations made to the high school.
- The board approved the motion of 15.1 to 15.9, which allows the Lenape class of 2022 to go on their senior trip, Lenapee to hold a junior dance, spring athletic schedules, and Shawnee class senior prom.
The next Lenape district board meeting will be held on May 12 at 7:30 p.m., at Seneca High School.