Amendments could relieve school budgeting concerns

State Sen. Ellen Karcher (D-Mon-mouth and Mercer) recently hosted a round table discussion on her proposed amendments to S-1701 — dealing with school district budgets — with 12th District superintendents and business administrators at Freehold High School, Freehold Borough.

“I think these are sound amendments that will alleviate many of the concerns school districts have with S-1701,” Karcher said. “Since the summer, I have been meeting with 12th District superintendents about the challenges this piece of legislation poses for them. From my research and feedback from those meetings, I have drafted amendments that would revise the two areas that would have the most damaging impact on school budgets and the viability of school programs.”

According to a press release, Karcher’s proposal would amend the current law to raise the permissible surplus of a school district back to 3 percent instead of the current 2 percent. Moving the permissible surplus back to 3 percent would allow schools the flexibility to manage extraneous circumstances such as the costs associated with utilities, school construction projects, or a special needs child.

Karcher’s proposal would also provide that administrative spending be capped at the per pupil administration limits for the region inflated by the cost of living or 2.5 percent, whichever is greater. The amendments will allow the commissioner of education greater flexibility in permitting school districts to exceed administrative limits if they properly demonstrate an extreme increase in enrollment, the requirement of administrative positions necessary as a result of mandated programs, administrative vacancies, and nondiscretionary fixed costs, according to the press release.

“There are a variety of issues with this piece of legislation,” said Monmouth County Superintendent of Schools Eugenia Lawson. “Schools will be very pleased to see that Sen. Karcher’s amendments would bring some relief to districts like those in Monmouth County that generally run very efficiently.”

“I want to commend the senator for taking the time to listen to our concerns,” said Freehold Regional High School District Superintendent of Schools James Wasser. “She has really taken the bull by the horns and worked with the school districts to draft amendments that will ease the burden of S-1701. I have the utmost confidence that she will relay the concerns of her constituents in the 12th District to her colleagues in Trenton.”