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Parsippany Board of Ed Quietly Adopts Budget

After a stormy consideration period centering around the superintendent's contract, the vote itself is drama-free.

The proposed 2011-12 school budget won easy approval by the Board of Education Tuesday night during a public hearing at the district offices.

The recent controversy over Superintendent LeRoy Seitz's contract was not a subject of discussion at the meeting, which kept the gathering largely peaceful. After a few questions from members of the audience, the board quickly voted to adopt the plan. 

"I'm excited about the budget," board member Andrew Choffo said. "I think it's fiscally responsible and maintains all our programs and will allow us to continue on the path we started on three years ago."

Asked why the issue of the superintendent's salary did not arise, Choffo chalked it up to the absence of naysayers. Board members Michael Strumolo and Robert Crawford, who made four unsuccessful attempts to have Seitz's contract rescinded, did not attend the hearing.

"I think the governor's spokesman's recent statement that the situation was resolved also quelled the comments," Choffo added.

Last Friday, governor's office spokesman Michael Drewniak said in an emailed statement that because Morris County Superintendent Kathleen Serafino cut Seitz's salary by $2,462 and then approved the budget, the district's spending plan "is now in compliance with the governor's salary cap regulations."  

The spending plan would allocate $129.8 million for the next school year, a decrease of $753,249 from the revised 2010-11 budget. If approved by voters, the plan will require a 0.8 percent property tax hike for homeowners, which translates to an average increase of approximately $130. 

Considering the economic climate and generally rising costs, Superintendent LeRoy Seitz noted that the school board took on a daunting task—maintaining classroom quality while minimizing tax impact—and largely succeeded.

"We're in good financial condition today because of the decisions the board made over the last three to five years," he said. 

The 2011-12 spending plan calls for no cutbacks in programs of instruction, sports teams, busing routes or co-curricular programs. Additionally, there will be an increase in the use of technology in classrooms. Seitz noted that iPads will be used by schools as curriculum tools and, ultimately, to save money on textbooks. 

"The idea," he said, "is to make education more relevant to how students learn today."

The budget features several measures to contain costs and to do more with less. Among them: keeping more special education students within the district to save on tuition costs, reducing senior administrator salaries by $50,000 and cutting insurance costs by $30,000. Meanwhile, the plan includes cuts from prior year levels in energy costs, communication and telephone expenses and unemployment payments.

The superintendent pointed out some areas of increase. A capital outlay of $1.1 million is neeeded for essential roof repairs at Parsippany High School. Health benefits will cost the district an additional $760,568, an increase of 4.9 percent over 2010-11 levels.

Additional paraprofessionals must be brought in to assist the larger number of in-district special education students, to the tune of just over $529,000. Payroll processing for school employees, which used to be free of charge, must now be paid for, and this will cost the district $84,000. And due to the termination of a shared services arrangement with the township, athletic field maintenance will now cost schools $70,000.

A number of areas did not increase or decrease, including costs for fuel, bus maintenance, technology, sports and co-curricular programs, and water and sewer. Seitz shared that water and sewer were projected to see a $60,000 increase, however negotiations with Mayor James R. Barberio brought the increase down to zero.

The budget's adoption pleases Board President Anthony Mancuso, who remarked, "With all that's been going on, I'm relieved."

The spending plan now goes to the taxpayers, who will vote on whether to accept the budget during the township's annual school election on April 27. The budget is expected to be available for viewing beginning Wednesday on the BOE website.

In addition to the spending plan, citizens will vote for new school board members. Parsippany-Troy Hills residents can hear what the nine candidates have to say on the issues at a Candidates' Night at Central Middle School. The event will be held Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. 

Matt Clarkin March 31, 2011 at 01:24 AM
Steve, I think we agree more than you think we do. I think the core (and really only) disagreement we seem to have on this issue is that I do not think voting down the budget will change the board's behavior (or what's left of it anyway). If the budget passes, I think the BOE will act the same way next year as if it doesn't pass. They are volunteers, and based on that fact and the behavior I've seen from them this year, I do not think they will ever change the way the are, no matter what we do. That is why I think voting down the budget will only hurt the kids.
steve revette March 31, 2011 at 01:45 AM
Yea but at least by voting down the budget we are letting the council decide how much to cut. A lot of people are pushing the council for a big cut. I admit this will hurt the kids. However this is how the people of Parsippany feel. If they approve the budget then hurray almost everybody's happy. However, if taxpayers do not approve the budget and it loses by like 3 hundred votes and the council cuts say 3 million dollars I personally would like an explanation from the board as to why Seitz is worth 3 million dollars. Matt the only thing I am saying is that the budget will not pass as long as Seitz get his contract. Alot of people are going to be like No they are not getting money out of me so they can give it to the administration. I have my own personal issues with the board. Matt you and I are pretty recent graduates. We really know what goes on in the schools. O and hint hint one of the reason's I have an issue with the board was because of one of the people I asked you about earlier. Sorry If this sounds mean I did not intend to make it like that. I like you and I respect your opinion on a lot of your posts. My anger is with the board anger that I had before all this nonsense started.
Matt Clarkin March 31, 2011 at 01:53 AM
Yes, we both seem to have our own individual, well-thought-out viewpoints on how this situation should be dealt with. I guess we'll have to await the verdict of the people and, most likely, the verdict of the Council. I also respect your opinion, and the opinions of everyone else on this site; the quality of the posters here is so refreshing compared to NJ.com and the Daily Record website.
Kevin Brancato March 31, 2011 at 05:52 AM
Steve re-read the articles about Choffo and Crawford. Choffo shook hands but he never apologized to him. It was a low class vicious slander and Crawford let it go without apology just to have it go away. Make no mistake I don't believe Choffo acted alone in this. Choffo, Mancuso and Neglia are bad for this Board and need to go. Choffo needs to go in this election, then Neglia next year then Mancuso.
Vlad Signorelli March 31, 2011 at 10:12 PM
Ellen, I understand Seitz's salary is already fifth highest in Morris County and among the top 10% out of roughly 600 school districts statewide, which doesn't take away from the fact that the Governor's salary cap would have kept it there, or arguably moved it higher on a relative basis because we are the largest district in Morris County. But that's still no guarantee that our academic ranking will rise proportionately. After all, with Seitz's top 5 salary in the county and top 10% salary rank in the state (200+K), our Parsippany High Schools are NOT among the top five in the county, or even top 10% in the state. Depending on what side of Parsippany you're on, we're either tenth or fifteenth in the county out of twenty two schools. And in terms of state rankings, PHHS ranks 50th, PHS ranks 84th out of 322 NJ high schools ranked by NJ Monthly -- http://www.box.net/shared/64q5q1jixe So what are you implying with Seitz's salary relative to other supers in the county? While not to dismiss all the good Seitz has done during his tenure or the valuable experience he possesses, it does sound reasonable, at least to this voter, that any decent Superintendent could have kept those academic rankings at similar levels for $175K/yr salary. As for BOE spending decisions, the Daily Record reports that state revenues are likely to be $4 billion below 2008 revenues. With that kind of economic contraction, it makes little fiscal sense to be handing out raises to any super.

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