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4-5-12 Education Issues in the News
Philadelphia Inquirer - Tuition going up at county schools; county contribution to remain the same...MOUNT HOLLY 'The Burlington County Institute of Technology's $36.5 million budget for 2012-13 is only 1 percent higher than last year, but it calls for a reduction in programs, teachers and other staff, and a 4.4 percent tuition hike for its sending districts.The increase, which raises tuition from $2,866 to $3,000 per student, comes on the heels of a nearly 15 percent hike last year, which officials acknowledged was a "struggle" for the sending districts...'

Philadelphia Inquirer - Tuition going up at county schools; county contribution to remain the same

 

Philadelphia Inquirer - Tuition going up at county schools; county contribution to remain the same

By Danielle Camilli Staff writer | Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2012 5:00 am

MOUNT HOLLY The Burlington County Institute of Technology's $36.5 million budget for 2012-13 is only 1 percent higher than last year, but it calls for a reduction in programs, teachers and other staff, and a 4.4 percent tuition hike for its sending districts.

The increase, which raises tuition from $2,866 to $3,000 per student, comes on the heels of a nearly 15 percent hike last year, which officials acknowledged was a "struggle" for the sending districts.

On Wednesday, the Burlington County Board of School Estimates, a subcommittee of the Burlington County Board of Freeholders, approved the fiscal plan and the county's $15.89 million share for the technical school with about 2,020 students.

The county's share, supported by tax dollars, has not changed since 2006. The freeholders challenged the contribution last year, saying it should be reduced given the loss of $1.9 billion in ratables. But the New Jersey Department of Education rejected that position and ordered the county to pay the share calculated by its formula.

Superintendent Donald Lucas said the budget is up 1.12 percent, or about $403,679, over last year. He said although BCIT received an increase in state aid of $644,982, all but $154,255 of that amount was needed to make up for the loss of about $490,000 in other state grant money that had expired.

To deal with rising costs and keep the budget under the state-mandated 2 percent tax levy cap, Lucas said cuts in staff and programs were necessary.

"We took a hard look and made decisions without diminishing our mission," he said. "We made some major cuts."

Thirteen staff positions will be eliminated, including 10 through layoffs and the rest through attrition, Lucas said. About half the layoffs are teachers.

Three programs will be eliminated. Staff members are expected to receive their notices Thursday. Lucas said he would provide details of the reductions after those notifications were made.

In other business, the Board of School Estimates approved the county tax levy to the Burlington County Special Services School District. The district will receive $4.8 million in 2012-13, the same as this school year, to support its $41 million spending plan.

The Special Services budget is up by about $275,000 over last year for the 640-student district, said Lucas, who is the shared superintendent of both county districts.

Tuition to sending districts will rise 3 percent, with a range from $33,930 to $42,130 for each special needs student, whose curriculum is driven by his or her individual education plan.

The district was mindful that its sending districts needed to stay within their own 2 percent budget caps and could not afford a significant increase, Lucas said.

While there are no planned layoffs of the 500-member staff, Lucas said six teachers and an administrator who plan to or have retired, or are leaving for other positions, will not be replaced.

The budget funds a new high school host autism program at BCIT's Medford campus, allowing students who need Special Services programs to remain at the high school but benefit from the specialized instruction.

In recent years, the Special Services district has reduced staff and made cuts to field trips, the Special Olympics and other ancillary programs.

"We were very lucky we didn't have to go any deeper into our programs (in the 2012-13 budget) because when you start to cut, you cut what our mission is," Lucas said. "We spent a lot of time this year dealing with funding and putting together a budget representative of a school of choice for special needs students."

Special Services programs continue to evolve as the student population continues to change, Lucas said. The school's latest focus is on autism. He told the board that the district has 25 autism classes, compared with just three in 2001.

BCIT and Special Services also are benefiting from the freeholder board's shared-services initiative that began about nine months ago when it announced the districts would share a superintendent. The board tasked Lucas and administrators to find more cost savings through shared services.

He said in that time the districts have realized about $368,000 in savings, including about $180,000 in salary by not hiring a second superintendent.

Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio said the districts are "on the cutting edge," with others around the state looking at their operations as a model.

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
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