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5-8-13 Education Issues in the News
The Record - Feasibility study on regional school funding formula presented to Woodcliff Lake Borough Council

Philadelphia Inquirer - Camden board votes to lay off teachers, aides


The Record - Feasibility study on regional school funding formula presented to Woodcliff Lake Borough Council


May 7, 2013  Lianna Albrizio, Pascack Valley Community Life


An updated feasibility study regarding Woodcliff Lake's fight to modify the Pascack Valley Regional High School funding formula outlines alternative district configurations that could potentially save the borough millions.

Vito Gagliardi, the attorney representing Woodcliff Lake on the issue, presented the study he authored with professionals of Statistical Forecasting, LLC at the May 6 Mayor and Council meeting.

The study, which is an updated version of a 2009 report commissioned by Montvale and Woodcliff Lake, was released by Woodcliff Lake in January. Its purpose was to examine the effects Woodcliff Lake and Montvale would have on the district and the savings they would accrue if they withdrew from the high school district. The report also outlines population and housing growth projections and enrollment trends, as well as educational and racial impacts. The study does not anticipate any negative racial impact and claims that "there is every reason to believe that any of the proposed district configurations in this study will succeed educationally."

From 1955 to 1975, the regional funding formula taxed residents on a per-pupil basis until the state changed it to the current model, which taxes residents based on property values. The change has caused what Gagliardi calls a "disproportionate" tax levy among the four sending districts - Woodcliff Lake, River Vale, Montvale and Hillsdale - with Woodcliff Lake paying about $3.5 million more a year than what he said the borough should be paying.

Gagliardi told residents Monday night at the Tice Senior Center that the borough could either file a lawsuit and withdraw from the district, which would require exhausting all administrative remedies, or push to change the formula, which would require a referendum that would need to pass in each of the four towns.

Retired CPA James Kirtland, who analyzed the financial impact in the study, said the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in 2004 regarding North Haledon's attempts to withdraw from the Manchester Regional High School district has prompted action among other districts. As a result, a number of constituent districts throughout New Jersey are currently refocusing on alternative configurations for the regional districts, he said. According to Kirtland's analysis of the tax levy per student in 2012-13, Woodcliff Lake pays the most out of the five districts at $30,250. Hillsdale pays the least at $15,750.

"If these numbers were all equal, we wouldn't be standing here tonight," said Kirtland.

He added the reason Woodcliff Lake is paying $30,250 is because the town has higher property values and fewer students. According to enrollment projections in the study from 2012 to 2017, enrollment among Woodcliff Lake children in the school system was projected to decline 81 students in Grades Pre-K through 8 and 40 at the high school level.

In his analyses, Kirtland includes a chart comparing the current configuration to six alternative configurations and the projected cost differences for each over a five-year period.

Based on the status quo, which includes four Pre-K through 8 districts and one regional high school district, over the next five years Woodcliff Lake is projected to pay $22.9 million on the tax levy; Montvale $24.5 million; Hillsdale $27 million; and River Vale $28.9 million. Alternative configurations include Woodcliff Lake withdrawing from the high school district and entering a send-receive relationship with the high school; a withdrawal of Woodcliff Lake and Montvale from the high school district, in which Woodcliff Lake would enter a sending-receiving relationship with Montvale; and a dissolution of the high school district, which would result in the expansion of Montvale and Hillsdale into two separate Pre-K-12 districts.

Based on Kirtland's projections, over the same five-year time period, the new configurations would save Woodcliff Lake anywhere from $2.4 million for dissolving the existing district and forming a new PK-12 district with Montvale, to $3.6 million for withdrawing from the district and entering a send-receive relationship; Montvale could save up to $2 million for dissolving the existing district and forming a new PK-12 district with Woodcliff Lake, and lose up to $1.2 million if Woodcliff Lake withdraws alone; Hillsdale stands to lost up to $2.7 million; and River Vale up to about $2 million.

Vito said Woodcliff Lake is waiting for an advisability report from Interim Executive Bergen County Superintendent Todd Flora to move forward with a decision.

River Vale and Hillsdale officials also submitted feasibility studies to the superintendent. According to their study, released in March, there would be "minimal savings" for Woodcliff Lake and Montvale if they choose to withdraw and "likely they will lose the educational benefits" they receive as members "of a highly-effective regional high school district." The study adds it would be in the "educational and financial interests of River Vale, Hillsdale, Montvale and Woodcliff Lake to continue to operate as a single regional high school district."

Kirtland, however, said Monday he recommends Woodcliff Lake pursue a withdrawal from the high school district with Montvale. He said either a two-district Pre-K-12 regional or a sending-receiving relationship would have "substantial overall financial and educational benefits."

Email: albrizio@northjersey.com


Philadelphia Inquirer - Camden board votes to lay off teachers, aides

Claudia Vargas, Inquirer Staff Writer

Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 3:01 AM

In a swift meeting Tuesday evening in which none of the Camden Board of Education members answered any questions from worried school employees, the board approved the layoff of nearly 100 teachers and support staff and all 113 lunch aides.

The board also approved the layoff of Joseph Carruth, the principal who was just rehired by the district at the start of the school year after a tumultuous court battle to get his job back.

More than 100 people showed up for Tuesday's meeting at the school administration building. The few people who spoke were greeted by "No comment" from Board President Kathryn Blackshear.

The official count of layoffs was not clear because of last-minute amendments to the list. It was initially 96, but some names were taken off and others added.

Tuesday's official notice of layoffs came a week after the board approved the elimination of 117 positions. Union seniority rules and tenure play a role in which employees will lose jobs. Some of the positions were vacant or held by employees planning to retire. Some positions were held by vice principals, whose new titles and locations for 2013-14 school year have not been determined.

The district has about 2,700 full-time employees.

Earlier this year, the board approved a $326.5 million operating budget for 2013-14. That budget hinted at eliminating about 100 positions. The budget is about $10 million more than the current school year's.

Teachers union president Laverne Harvey said she would look through the list, which she had not yet seen when the board voted Tuesday evening, and "make sure they are laying off the right people."

Harvey said she feared tenure rules might not have been followed.

"They seem to come up with all sorts of surprises," Harvey said after the meeting.

Principals union president Calvin Gunning shared the same sentiment.

"The seniority process was done wrong," Gunning claimed. "It's some type of favoritism."

Gunning is also concerned about the board's letting go of Carruth and the legality surrounding it.

Carruth was rehired in August 2012 following an arbitration ruling. He alleged that the district fired him for publicly revealing in 2005 that he was asked to tamper with students' state test scores. He was also awarded an $860,000 settlement.

In March 2012, the arbitrator ruled that the district should reinstate Carruth as a principal by July 1, 2013. The school board voted to reinstate him for the school year beginning September 2012.

Because there were no principal positions open, Carruth was hired as a principal on special assignment within the office of safety and security.

Before Tuesday's meeting, Carruth said he would consult with his attorney on what to do next.

The lunch aides who showed up at Tuesday's meeting were especially upset. Many are city residents and single mothers.

"Are you going to be there for us when we're evicted?" aide Chanell Johnson yelled from her seat.

She later said in an interview that she took the lunch-aide job two years ago thinking it would be a stable job, albeit part time.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," said Johnson, 24, a Woodrow Wilson High graduate. "I try to give back to [the district], and this is what I get."

A school board official said the district's food-service provider, Aramark, might hire some of the aides.

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