Jackson School District could see staff reduction for 2019-20

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JACKSON – The Jackson School District Board of Education has introduced a tentative budget of $153.21 million to fund the operation of the school district during the 2019-20 school year.

The budget may result in a reduction in the size of the district’s staff and larger class sizes, according to district administrators.

A public hearing for the budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. April 30 in the Fine Arts Center of Jackson Memorial High School.

During the upcoming school year, Jackson will see its state aid decrease from $48.77 million in 2018-19 to $46.47 million for 2019-20 – a decrease of $2.3 million.

The decrease is the result of legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018 which redistributes state aid across New Jersey’s school districts. The reduction in Jackson’s state aid began in 2018-19 and is expected to continue through the 2024-25 school year.

The school district’s 2018-19 budget totaled $154 million. Jackson’s residential and commercial property owners paid $91.85 million in taxes to support the budget.

The 2019-20 budget totals $153.21 million and Jackson’s residential and commercial property owners will pay $94.16 million in taxes to support the budget – an increase of $2.31 million.

Specific information about the impact of the budget on a property owner’s taxes is expected to be available when the public hearing on the budget is held.

Superintendent of Schools Stephen Genco said the district is seeing attrition in its staff and said it is hoped that attrition will account for an anticipated reduction in staff during the upcoming school year.

“We certainly anticipate (staff cuts). I would say it is tentative. I will be more specific (later this month), but we would lose through attrition right around 20 positions,” Genco said.

He said those positions “could be in a combination (of areas), but for the most part they would be on the education side.”

Genco said administrators had to eliminate plans for capital projects in 2019-20, adding, “We are also cutting half of our curriculum adoption. We have always protected about $1 million for curriculum adoption … we are putting off the entire language arts component of our curriculum adoption and we are only moving forward with the social studies curriculum adoption.”

The superintendent said funds are being moved from professional development to salaries to maintain teaching positions. Genco said it is possible more than 20 positions will be eliminated for the upcoming school year.

“We are slowly losing the ability to maintain our facilities and we are definitely losing the ability to protect class size. We have always protected class size, especially at the elementary level, and we are slowly losing that ability to do that as well,” Genco said.

“We are doing our best not to eliminate a specific program, but we are definitely getting very close to that. We are doing our best not to do that, but our class sizes are going to start going up (and) we will have fewer electives in the high schools. That is what you are going to start seeing with the elimination of staff,” he said.

Regarding the maintenance of the school district’s facilities in the proposed budget, Genco said, “We have always been able to maintain our facilities with our budget, but we are going to start losing that ability. I have 10 schools, an administration building and a transportation building. Maintaining these facilities is not cheap and we have always been able to protect money to do that, but we are not going to be able to do that in this (2019-20) budget,” Genco said.