As WW-P district officials prepare to begin discussions in January for the 2011-’12 school budget, they reviewed the cuts they already made this year to keep within tight constraints.
While the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District’s current $155.9 million budget won voter approval last April, officials had to hammer out the details to compensate for a significant loss in state aid — to the tune of $7.6 million.
Now, as officials prepare for January, when discussions on the 2011-’12 budget begin, they reviewed the cuts they had to make this year to offset the state aid loss.
While taxpayers funded half of that state aid decrease, the district had to make cuts to account for the remainder, officials reported at the November 23 school board meeting.
“There was an impact on the way we work and on our programs,” said Superintendent Victoria Kniewel before a presentation on the cuts. “However, we did work very hard to stay true to our mission and our values. We worked to have the least impact on the students, teachers, and instructional materials as possible.”
The purpose of the presentation, she said, was to set the baseline for where the district will begin its discussions come January.
David Aderhold, the assistant superintendent for pupil services and planning, presented figures on the cuts the district made this year. Overall, the district reduced 34 positions for a savings of $3.4 million. Some of those reductions came in the form of retirements and subsequent realignment.
Staff members were transferred based upon district need, certifications, seniority, and tenure, he said. Despite the cuts, the budget did account for a few additions: an integrated pre-school at Maurice Hawk; a pre-school autistic class at Dutch Neck; and the addition of one fifth grade class at Millstone River because of high enrollment numbers in the fourth grade.
Among the 34 cuts were five supervisory positions: the K-3 math supervisor; K-5 supervisor; 4-8 science supervisor; 9-12 math supervisor; and the 4-8 language arts supervisor.
Aderhold said that three of those positions were removed in the district’s originally-proposed budget with a 2.2 percent increase — later reduced to a flat budget because of the drastic cuts in state aid. “When we lost the aid, two tenured administrators were reduced.”
There was also a reduction of 3.5 secretarial positions and the realignment of the Buildings and Grounds services through privatization of its custodial staff, which was projected to save $1.5 million.
The district also had to reduce its capital spending from $1.5 million to $1.25 million. The district also reduced its allotment for the Princeton International Academy Charter School (which would have cost the district nearly $1 million if it had opened this past September as planned).
If the school had opened, the district would have had to make more cuts in its own budget to be able to disperse the funds, Aderhold said.
Reductions also came in printing costs, central office staff and supplies, and other supplies totaling $250,000.
The cuts resulted in increases in student-teacher ratios throughout the district, Aderhold said. The reductions in staff resulted in increased class sizes.
There were reductions of classroom supplies; health, guidance, and library supplies and subscriptions; travel and workshops for teachers; field trip funding; student agendas; additional time for nurses, guidance counselors, and librarians; and in textbooks accounts.
At the elementary school level, the district reduced its K-4 health teachers. “The health curriculum is now being taught by regular education teachers,” said Aderhold.
Also at the elementary level, the district reduced its elementary computer teachers. At the middle school level, the district eliminated a mini-team (a team in which two teachers teach two subjects each) at the seventh grade level, restructured its support teachers, and reduced its Outdoor Education program, which alone saved the district $52,000.
At the high school level, the district reduced the number of coaches and programs in co-curricular activities and reduced its head teacher stipends.
In athletics, the middle school sports teams saw reductions, the district consolidated the seventh and eighth grade sports program to include only one team per sport. There were reductions in under-subscribed programs, and sports seasons were shortened. Instead of having as many as three or four games per week at the middle school level, teams now are limited to two games per week.
Further, the district allowed fewer buses for travel and reduced transportation for middle school sporting events (98 events) and for the high schools (40 events).
The district also eliminated funding for in-house tournament officials or police, which resulted in the elimination of the Pirate Invitational, the North Knight Invitational, and the JV Basketball Tournament.
In the area of student support services, the district also realigned its nursing and guidance staff. There was a reduction of one counselor position at Grover Middle School and half of a counselor position at Community and also a reduction of middle school lead counselors.
The district also consolidated its bus routes to save money, Aderhold said.
Next year’s budget will be difficult, said Kniewel, but the district plans to partner with its two communities to “maintain the integrity of our educational program during these times.”
“Research tells us that successful schools are characterized by dedicated educators, motivated students, involved parents, and a supportive community,” she said.