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Uncertainties Remain as School Budget Process Moves Forward

Administrators expect upcoming budget to have a 1.9 percent increase in expenditures

Plans are in motion for Toms River school officials to finalize and publicly present their 2013-14 budget — which is expected to include about a 1.9 percent expenditures increase — but some aspects of the process remain unclear.

Still over a month away from adoption, administrators remain unsure how much state aid will flow into their budget and what impact Superstorm Sandy's devastation will have on taxes among the regional district's four municipalities.

"What we need to watch out for this year is what will the impact be on equalized valuations if Toms River plummets on a percentage basis," said Business Administrator William Doering during a budget committee meeting this week.

Toms River officials have said that the township's ratables base may have lost 20 percent because of damage caused by Sandy. The other municipalities in the regional school district — Beachwood, Pine Beach and South Toms River — do not appear to have sustained as dramatic of a ratables decrease.

"What that automatically does is redistribute the taxes between all four towns," Doering said.

In the $204 million 2012-13 school budget, taxes increased in Toms River and Pine Beach, but dropped in Beachwood and South Toms River. Those changes were based on a state formula, which the district cannot alter.

"We have no ability to tweak it or anything," Doering said.

But the administrator noted that those equalization figures are not yet available and it remains a possibility that the state may not complete them before the final budget is due. The scenario he presented was a "for instance," since hard figures are not yet known. 

"The worst part, too, is that, if you read the articles in the paper, [the ratables base] may be staying down since a lot of these people won't be able to afford the flood insurance," said board member Edward Gearity. "The ratables not only will be down this year, they may be gone forever."

Superintendent of Schools Frank Roselli said that New Jersey Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf visited High School East this week to learn how Sandy impacted schools and its students. Roselli said that he was able to speak privately with Cerf about the challenges the district faces.

"No matter what we do with our budget, people in our community are suffering," Roselli said as he recounted his meeting with the commissioner. "Is there any relief that can be given to our district?"

Cerf indicated to Roselli that Gov. Chris Christie is looking into possibly supplying additional aid to stricken districts, and some state representatives are working to develop funding packages for devastated areas.

Another possible avenue for help is a Federal Emergency Management Agency program allowing for a loan of $5 million if a municipality's tax base is impaired. Toms River has applied for the loan; the school district will declare its intent to apply, but is still awaiting guidance on several questions that may make the loan a less attractive option.

For instance, if the district took the money, "does that mean next year we can only grow 2 percent on the deflated amount? Then we'd be in a $5 million hole" next year, Doering said. "I just don't want us stepping into a trap."

The district has alerted the municipalities it serves of the loan program, which has a Feb. 15 intent declaration deadline, so that they can apply and potentially use those funds should the valuation equalization cause a tax increase. 

Several budget meetings are planned before the final public hearing and board adoption on March 21 at High School North: a Feb. 27 meeting in the district's 1144 Hooper Ave. administration office (and Feb. 28 should more time be needed for discussions) and a March 5 advertised public meeting at High School North. 

"Nobody should be leaving this process saying that the budget is a mystery," said Doering, who said that he will make himself available to discuss the numbers with residents.

The budget — about 98 percent of which is fixed costs, according to Doering — is said to maintain staffing and program levels. 

"We feel comfortable that it meets all the needs of the district," Roselli said.

State aid figures remain unknown, but should be distributed about two days after Christie's Feb. 25 budget address. The budget is due to the county March 7, which is a challenge given the unknowns. 

"You're rolling out the aid that could have major implications on a budget and giving districts about a week to not only finish the budget, but get it approved by the board and submitted," Doering said. "The whole thing is a little bit crazy."

Billabong February 14, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Mike, property reassessments are not the answer. Just look at your neighbors in Manchester (of which I am one). Following a town-wide reassessment, many of us middle class families in Manchester have seen our property values drop tens of thousands of dollars...but guess what, our taxes are going up. This is just another example of the shysters in our local governments. Hopefully the people of Toms River don't get bent over like us in Manchester. You guys have been through enough pain.
S. Bar February 14, 2013 at 04:51 PM
INCREASE????!!! There should be NO increase. Pensions are a HUGE problem. There should be no more pensions for any public employee. Why should they get them when the rest of the world learns to save for their retirement? We need to start spending cuts NOW...think our taxes are high now? Wait till all of the missing/damaged homes don't pay taxes and the balance needs to be made up. Plus the peope who live in a flood zone are no going to be faced w/ crazy high flood insurance and increased property taxes. Local, State and Fed. govt. need to cut spending now.
Mike L February 14, 2013 at 05:55 PM
You are absolutely right, NO INCREASE. Where do they think we are going to get the monies to pay for everything they want. The BOE and Township live in Fantsay Land. There are less TAX paying people in Toms River now. Got to stop putting in office the same old cronies, look we even put the OLD Sheriff back in and God Rest His Soul he couldn't even make it thru the month. I wonder if our votes are even counted, remember those in charge are Republican constitutants. The Republicans have had there way for too long and The Democrats are useless. And as for your comment BillaBong, you didn't get what I ment. All House Valuations should go back to what ever year the Township did the increases and this would make all increases in future be the same for all.
TomsRiverMom February 14, 2013 at 08:22 PM
We can't forget that our budget took a HUGE cut because of Christie. Perhaps he can give it back to us now instead of funneling it into places like Newark and Camden. Our children lost before and after school programs, and have never been on a field trip except for the former "Ritacco Center." Go to a museum or aquarium on any given day, and it is filled with kids there on field trips from inner city schools. We seem to be the only school district that has cut out so much for our kids, yet the parents remain complacent. What a shame.
JD February 15, 2013 at 12:16 AM
??? are you kidding??? There are sooo many before and after school programs its ridiculous!! And kids do field trips. TRRS budget was never cut!! If you look, it continually increased. Perhaps you are confusing that Christie took money from the reserve account... or that TRRS doesn't get its fair share from the state due to the Abbott districts.
HR February 15, 2013 at 01:07 AM
It doesn't matter if Toms River is packed inch by inch with people or as it is now, we will continue to hear the same sob stories while TR Schools and the board continue to hire their sister's boyfriend's uncle. Would love to hear the justification behind giving a fresh faced incompetent girl a maternity leave position over other subs who have been subbing ten fold to her??? Just look at who her father is, hint recently in the news for his own unjustifiable tenure that was given to him for his Public Works position. Or what board position her mother holds. Toms River's Education system, due to the administration NOT most teachers, has declined because hirings like this happen over and over again. It doesn't matter if they are ready or good enough for the position all that matters is who they know. Until they are held accountable nothing will change, taxes will continue to rise, and their salaries will continue to be inflated.
Joe February 15, 2013 at 03:55 AM
To S. Bar: No more pensions? Look at all the other countries with the highest perecentage of top performing schools and you will find a system in place that attracts the top 20% of graduating university students to fill the ranks of retiring teachers. Speaking as a teacher who graduated with honors from Rutgers University, as every incentive is slowly disappearing from a career in education, we'll surely fill those vacated positions with the lowest performing ignorant people, graduating from the lowest 20% of their graduating class like yourself. Is this who you want standing in front of our future leaders?
ortleysmellslikebunker February 15, 2013 at 12:34 PM
To Joe , there are no jobs for all these educated children to fill, mostly because of liberal idiots like yourself.
ortleysmellslikebunker February 15, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Hey Joey, summer off, great benefits, payed forever??? Your smoking crack.accumulated sick days?? And lsd, you retard.My aunt was a teacher and had been retired Longer then she worked, how does that add up??Mr Honors .as you can probably tell I didnt graduate with honors ,mumsy, but i can do math.
Chief Wahoo February 15, 2013 at 02:32 PM
you dont like it, you are free to resign and find a much better paying job and all the benefits , you so richly deserve.....
ortleysmellslikebunker February 15, 2013 at 03:01 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3bkhpx2YwM hey joe, this is what you got buddy
S. Bar February 15, 2013 at 04:24 PM
JOE: How about summers off plus vacation days, home by 3, every holiday paid off day, excellent benefits? Are these not incentives? How about people wanting to teach because they want to teach? inspire young people? There is no need for anyone to get a pension. People should live within their means and again, learn to save for their futures like the rest of the working public. My cousing is a TR teacher who is having a baby in June and doesnt have to go back to work till December, her benefits paid for in-vetro 3 times, she is home by 3 to meet her kids as they get off the bus allowing her to be a hands-on mom, she has time to have a career and be a house-wife. Where else would you find a job like that. Not to mention she already makes $75k/year. Be a teacher because you want to teach Joe, no because you want to get paid by the tax-payers for life. If you are so smart you would realize the accounting doesn't make sense and this is a huge part of the town's spending. NO MORE PENSIONS.
S. Bar February 15, 2013 at 04:26 PM
PS. Toms River schools have crappy teachers because connected people always get hired first. As far as resources, including top-knotch baseball fields, sports equipments, the famous Ritacco center...TR schools have everything they need to offer kids a full-filling education and school experience.
ortleysmellslikebunker February 15, 2013 at 05:05 PM
aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh,joe got served
Thomas Paine February 15, 2013 at 08:53 PM
S.Bar. You are so stupid. TR Schools are an embarrassment compared to the rest of the schools in the county, on par with Lakewood. We have no technology, books that are over 20 years old, equipment that breaks down daily. Your cousin earns $75K can't be young enough to have children based on our salary guide - one of the lowest in the state. And our insurance did not pay for her invitro. You are a liar.
S. Bar February 15, 2013 at 10:33 PM
Thomas Paine: If you are so smart you would realize that she is having problems getting pregnant at her age which is why she is having in-vitro. Her insurance covers this 3-4 times (not sure which). Your insurance paid for in-vitro, plus fertility specialist plus a specialist for twins. Maybe you should read your policy. Coverage includes IVF which is in vitro since you apparently don't realize that. It also covers four completed egg retrievals. In case you haven't heard, women are having children while in their 40's. You should check your facts before you go around calling people liars....guess you are the STUPID one. You shouldn't even have such good benefits if you don't even know what they are. Maybe if TR didn't use money on pensions or million dollar baseball fields you could have new books. And teachers can always find a job in the summer to make an extra $10,000 at least. I graduated from TR school system w/ honors and went on to get a 2 bachelors degrees and a masters from Rutgers. Obviously the school system is fine. PS. Check your facts. TR definitely is not one of the lowest in the state. Its about average. Wayne is actually only $1000/yr more and the cost of living is much higher there.
S. Bar February 15, 2013 at 10:33 PM
PS. Thomas...maybe if you weren't so selfish you could admit that cutting pensions may not be what is best for you, but would be best for TR tax-payers and most importantly the students.
S. Bar February 15, 2013 at 10:34 PM
Also, what kind of teacher calls someone "stupid"...another example of a crappy teacher.
Thomas Paine February 15, 2013 at 11:47 PM
S.Bar. I apologize, you're ignorant.
ortleysmellslikebunker February 16, 2013 at 01:29 PM
damn, s bar kind of served you a bowl of dicks...youll get em next time...tommy
ortleysmellslikebunker February 16, 2013 at 01:30 PM
tommy are u in paine from that,cause i feel it
ortleysmellslikebunker February 16, 2013 at 01:31 PM
think up something real good for your next pile of crap tommy
Thomas Paine February 16, 2013 at 03:40 PM
I guess ignorance is bliss, it's over, since I was served a bowl of empty arguments. And Wayne, NJ? Where's that honors education? Rambling debates are desperate. I'm so glad we are on par with the likes of Wayne and not any town in Monmouth County. So long status quo!
S. Bar February 16, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Tom how am I ignorant when I know what your benefits include and you don't? You are mad because you called me a liar when I was correct and called me stupid when you are the one who doesn't know what you are talking about. Maybe you should check your facts before you start calling people names. You don't even have the moral character to be a decent teacher and here you are trying to justify why the tax payers should continue to pay you for the rest of your life. Typical selfish entitled mentality. Instead of worrying about your incentives why don't you put your energy into being a better role model for your students! TR can't afford your pension so if you were sooooooo smart you would realize that....guess your ignorance is bliss.
S. Bar February 16, 2013 at 05:18 PM
PS. Have you ever even been to Wayne? Anywhere in Passaic County? Wayne ranked 35th best HS in NJ in NJ Monthly's 2012 September issue and TR North...228. Basically same pay scale. Much higher cost of living in Wayne. Look it up if you are going to make rediculous claims. Or how about you just move to Monmouth county so they can pay your pension and you actually have to find out what hard work is when your students in Neptune get zero after school support, don't have clean clothes, have gang members threatening them, etc. See ya.
chtulu2000 February 16, 2013 at 10:54 PM
Actually S.Bar if you did some research, you would see that the average salary for a teacher in Wayne is 72,000, while the average salary for a TR teacher is 57,000...not the same pay scale. And the tax rate for Passiac (where Wayne is located) is much higher than Toms River (Ocean) so, they are spending a heck of a lot more on education than we are.
chtulu2000 February 16, 2013 at 11:22 PM
To continue the discussion implied by S.Bar that teachers in TR get too much and since he cited NJ Monthly rankings...here are some of the top schools on that listing and the average salaries for their teaching staff... Bernards HS (#11), 90,000...GlenRock HS (#4), 90,000...Kinnelon HS (#5), 67,000...Madison HS (#6), 72,000...Millburn HS (#8), 73,000...New Providence HS (#1), 80,000...Tenafly HS (#3), 79,000...Rumson-Fair Haven HS (#10), 86,000...Ridge HS (# ), 91,000, and so on. Toms River Schools (#228-230, I believe), 57,000. The point being that these schools succeed because they pay more and that has numerous effects...1. They get much better teachers out of college because of the higher salaries. 2. They can certainly demand more and will GET more because of the sense of pride these communities have not only in their schools, but in their staff, reflected by their desire to pay more. Things are tied together. Why would ANY solid teacher want to teach in TR when they are treated like garbage by most members of this community (as seen on this site) AND they are paid nearly 20,000 less on average than the top schools in the state. And that's not even looking at the other schools that are near our ranking which outpay us.
Thomas Paine February 18, 2013 at 09:47 PM
I do live in Monmouth ;) and just accepted a job in Colts Neck for $22,000 more a year. Just remember S. Bar, you get what you pay for meaning your honors education does not mean what you think compared to other schools. You're so proud of your double major, but I'm sure none of your professors had anything to do with it. Oh, and I've been to Wayne...your standards need some polishing. BOOM!
holden2112 February 19, 2013 at 04:12 AM
Although the TR salary is lower it still looks pretty good for only working about half a year, lifetime employment, lots of sick days and vacation (never understood why you need vacation days when you're off all summer) and lifetime medical for you and your family for life.
chtulu2000 February 19, 2013 at 05:16 PM
The point is that there is a DIRECT coralation between money spent by the above mentioned Districts and the success of those Districts.

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