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Admins: Challenges Remain for Future Budgets

Harrison voters will decide whether or not they support they the district's $104.2 million spending plan on May 15.

Outlining the almost year-long process of creating the , Harrison school administrators said they had to rely on several one-time savings opportunities to get this year's budget under the tax cap—opportunities they say probably won't be available to them next year.

Harrison Assistant Superintendent for Business Robert Salierno said things like decreased enrollment, a decrease in the number of special education students and borrowing from the district's fund balance are one-time cost savers that probably won't be available next year.

The district saved about $1.6 million in the 2012-13 budget by eliminating or absorbing 10.4 full-time equivalent positions. Five of those positions are teaching positions. Class sizes weren't affected because of a slight dip in enrollment, Salierno said.

Harrison Superintendent Louis Wool said the district offered a retirement incentive this fall in anticipation of the decreased enrollment. But administrators said Wednesday they don't expect the number of Harrison students to continue to decrease moving forward.

"That will not repeat itself, so we have some large numbers in the budget that we are taking advantage of this year that are all what I call 'one shots'," Salierno said.

The district was also able to borrow from its fund balance—approximately $4 million this year—to help decrease the burden on taxpayers. But that balance essentially serves as the district's savings account, so Salierno said borrowing isn't something he wants to make a habit of.

"That's not something we can maintain moving forward," he said.

Overall, administrators have been able to slash more than $3 million from the budget since November, Salierno said. More than $1 million of that savings came from decreases in instructional and non-instructional staff.

The Harrison Board of Education approved the preliminary 2012 budget last week. The proposed budget has a tax levy increase of 1.97 percent, placing it beneath the tax cap. The tax rate increase is estimated at 3.08 percent.

The board of education applauded the budget last week, saying administrators achieved their two goals of staying beneath the tax cap without affecting class sizes or reducing programming.

"It's been a very long and difficult process for us," Wool said Wednesday. "This is a board that has dedicated itself to a long range plan, a long range vision for education and for finance, so I think we have, to the extent possible, managed through this crisis period."

But keeping that direction moving forward will be another challenge, said Salierno, who noted that increased state pension costs alone increased the budget about 1.8 percent this year. Other outside factors like decreased revenue, declining state and federal funding and decreasing property assessments also make staying beneath the 2 percent tax levy cap difficult moving forward.

Ross Revira May 03, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Could it be the your compensation structure with district employees is too high? Maybe the board should get real when the employee contracts come up for renewal? Better yet maybe the board should follow the lead set by N J Governor Chris Christie and limit administrators salaries to $200,000 per year. If not expect next years' budget to exceed the cap and not get 60% approval for passage. Either get ahead of the wave or get swallowed by it.
Dr John May 04, 2012 at 10:48 AM
This is a great article. We are already being warned not to expect the kinds of savings we are seeing in the 2012 – 2013 budget! Savings!! The BOE has proposed a budget which is the money we need to educate about 3500 children that is nearly double the budget the town has to manage services to 27,000 residents. This includes garbage collect, trash collection, the DPW maintaining highways and parks and the best police department in the US. Why is there such a difference? Perhaps it is as Ross Rivera says. Salaries too high for administrators! I will go one better , too many administrators. Vote no on this budget and tell the BOE that they will have to do what everyone else is doing; no pay increases and do more with less. Let’s stop this insanity once and for all VOTE NO ON THIS BUDGET!!!
Ross Revira May 04, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Dr. John, It is not about the different jobs you do for the public but how many people and how much you pay to accomplish the task. In defense of the board in Harrison this situation is the same throughout the area. When the various unions are negotiating their contract they will use other school districts with higher salaries to show why their demand is warranted. This tactic is used over and over again by each district's union which ratchets up the pay continuously. What the board is guilty of is the disregard for the ability of the average citizen to keep up with this inflationary spiral.
Ada B Angarano May 04, 2012 at 12:33 PM
What is sad is that when we married 40 years ago at a young age we both grew up in Harrison and wanted our children to have the same outstanding education that we both recieved so we decided to remain in town to raise our family (4 children). Our first 2 daughters born '72 & '75 had basically the same great education we received but with more added electives. Then when our 2 other children who were born '89 & '91 entered the Harrison Central School System we noticed how the system was drastically changing. Teachers who 'we' had wanted to retire early as they were apprehensive about remaining, they were worried about getting fired even though they were tenured! They feared the 'new' administration and it's way of thinking! What happened to Dr. Howard????? We had Dr. Valente, do we have a Dr. Wool????????????????? The reason we stayed in Harrison will ultimatly be the reason we 'leave' because the high school taxes will not allow us to retire comfortably as we should be able to. I love this town to death but will not allow it to be the death of me!
Dr John May 04, 2012 at 12:36 PM
With all due respect to you Ross there is no defense of the BOE. They consistently renew Lou Wools contract every year with a great increase in salary. I thought contracts were to protect both parties. This would have kept his salary in check for at least 3 – 5 years. We are always looking to negotiate with the unions but it is not only the unions causing the salaries to rise. Let’s face facts. The superintendent of schools is supposed to work for the school board but with these puppet board members Lou Wool pulls the strings. We have had at least two cases where school employees were either convicted criminals or commented crimes while working for our school system. One was a convicted child molester; the other was a teacher dealing drugs. I remember that Superintendent Howard lost his job for one instance of this yet this guy remains. There are many people who have no received pay increases for years and also many without jobs yet all the administrators get increases every year and we have to foot the bill. Now Lou Wool is complaining about teacher evaluations. Do we have the right to see how the people who are teaching our children perform their job? Lou Wool thinks we do not and narrows this down to dollars it will cost the public for these evaluations.
uj May 04, 2012 at 01:38 PM
We can not believe that the Harrison citizens believe this stuff......its called spin, smoke and mirror,,, what other metaphor would you need to here and read...... The President of the United States earns about 400 thousand. Mr Wool makes 330 thousand....go figure...We , the citizens of Harrison must take back our schools, and clean house of these board members and especially Mr Wool...... We are sure , in your own households, these shams would not go on or cease , once found out. The ECONOMY,,,,,,,,,,,,,,THE ECONOMY IS VERY UNSTABLE....yet its true Mr Wool keeps getting raise after raise....He STILL HAS NOT ROOTED OUT the custodians in Purchase schools and other places that should not have passed the "smell test" ..Again we ask the board to look into this ....as well as the relations to the teachers of these hires. We also wish that other parents are allowed to "coach" and get paid. The little group currently has been there for years;let have term limits there too. When the parents , who think nothing is going on behind the scenes, then has to foot the college bill for their own children We wish them luck. Reason being if your not in the " your out" .. WE ASK OUR CITIZENS TO WRITE TO THE BOARD, ATTEND THE MEETINGS , BUT WE ALSO ASK LEGAL EXPERTS TO HELP THE CITIZENS TO ASK THE BOARD TO STOP THIS SPENDING,SPENDING AND EXCUSE AFTER EXCUSE.

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