Board of Education members from suburban districts in Union, Essex and Morris Counties have been having casual conversations regarding shared services in light of Gov. Chris Christie's cut to state education aid.
Westfield Board of Education President Ginny Leiz announced at Thursday morning's Parent Teacher Council meeting that there has been discussion among members of the Tri County School Boards group regarding how various districts are planning to make budget cuts in the aftermath of Christie's larger than expected state aid cuts. School districts had expected a cut of no more than 15-percent in last year's state aid payment and Christie announced Tuesday that the cuts would equal five percent of the previous year's budget. In Westfield's case, the aid cut went from $750,000 to $4.22 million.
Leiz told parent leaders Thursday that she and other members of the group, which handles shared services among suburban districts, have discussed several ideas on how to handle the cuts. One is increased shared services based on the cuts. This could include shared services in terms of student activities, in the event that school districts cut extracurricular activities. Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan announced at the same meeting that this was being discussed, but cautioned it was considered a worst care scenario for cuts.
Leiz said some of the shared services ideas could help districts make up cuts or provide certain services if there is a need to cut in one district. She noted that the conversations are casual in nature and no plans have been structured. PTC members expressed interest in possibly pursuing the idea depending on the cuts that are made.
The BOE needs to submit a new spending plan to the county schools superintendent by March 23 and adopt a final budget by March 30. The public will vote on a plan during the April 20 school board election.