After Sandy Losses, Residents Ask School District for Diligence with Upcoming Budget

Toms River's ratable base estimated to have taken a 20 percent hit because of storm

On the heals of Hurricane Sandy and a drop in Toms River's ratables base, residents asked that school administrators carefully plan their 2013-14 budget. 

Toms River officials have said that the township's ratable base has suffered a drop of an estimated 20 percent because of the devastation left in Sandy's wake. That loss will mean less revenue to collect for municipal, county and school funding.

Some residents at the Board of Education meeting this week expressed concern that school officials 

"I would not want to be in your shoes. I see Sandy's gift for 2013 is a tax hike," said resident Dennis Galante, who spoke during the meeting's public comment portion. 

"How are you going to balance between the teachers, administration, staff, students and the taxpayers," Galante said. "I'm giving you a mandate as a taxpayer. I want to know how you're going to cut spending."

"There is a new reality out there," board President Ben Giovine said regarding the tax landscape following Sandy. 

Township officials have said that they plan to appeal to the state for additional aid to help balance budgets after Sandy.

"I know that the school district has already been in contact with Toms River in what the township is looking at and what they're looking at from us," Giovine said. 

Resident Nels Luthman, who noted that the district "does a good job trying to keep costs down," suggested that the Board of Education ask the state temporarily to divert funding that goes toward poorer and underperforming "Abbott districts" to Sandy-striken towns, Luthman said.

"I'm hoping that you'll be proactive in going after that money because the tax burden is going to be high on this town and we pay more than our fair share to districts throughout the state for over 30 years," Luthman said. 

For the 2012-13 school year, the 18-school regional district is operating on a $204 million budget, a $4 million increase over the 2011-12 spending plan. Toms River received over $67 million, or about 33 percent of its funding, from state aid. Local property taxes made up nearly $133 million, or about 65 percent, of the $204 million in budget revenues.

Superintendent of Schools Frank Roselli said that the district is aware of the potential budgetary impacts and he hopes the public realizes how "efficient we are as a school district." The district's relatively low per pupil and administrative costs are evidence of that, according to the superintendent.

"We are efficient and we do look at cost very, very closely," Roselli said. 

The municipalities of Toms River, South Toms River, Pine Beach and Beachwood each support the regional school district and changes to their ratables affect what they contribute to the school budget. 

The state has yet to release the budget calendar for the school districts 2013-14 plans, said board member Joseph Torrone. Last year, the budget was approved in late March. 

Torrone, who last year as a member of the public questioned whether the board was transparent enough in releasing budget figures, said that a new online system is in place which allows board members to review budget figures easily. 

Residents with questions about the budget are invited to contact Business Administrator William Doering, Roselli said. 

Robert Bressman January 19, 2013 at 01:25 PM
@chtulu2000, For the past 20 years we have been in the lower third for performing districts, one reason is they bought out the good teachers, whether they were eligible or not, second for years they haven't been able to bring home books because they are shared with other classes, third for years subs weren't even qualified to teach, they were just baby-sitters. The BOE and Ritacco focused on their businesses within the district rather than the kids, the trade off is the kids didn't get the education they should've gotten, Ritacco got his wish to be a CEO and the township with their partnerships with the District got a piece of the pie to allow Ritacco to have full rein over the District. You didn't hear anyone complain when Ritacco gave the town $25,000.00 for Castle Park, or when the BOE paid out $25,000 for a insurance policy we never had, do you think the kids in school could've used that money for books, or technologies? What does he really mean when you ride around with a sticker on your car, that you son or daughter is an honor student, when your schools are rated as low as Abbott District Schools. Do you really think it's more money? Newark Schools spend way more than us, it didn't help them. We might start by getting rid of all those relatives and friends of the administration and just get qualified teachers, that would be a good start. Money isn't the answer to this problem.
chtulu2000 January 19, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Robert, you have obviously never been in the education field 20 years ago, when other Districts were looking at TR as the model for education. That is a fact! Obviously, you are correct in your comments about money being stolen, moved around, made to vanish and misused throughout those years as well. The fact that people like you and JD put the blame mainly on the shoulders of the staff is a disservice to those teachers in TR who do not have relatives in the District (there are many) and who were not friends with any admin (there are many) and who work very hard with limited resources to try and give our kids a great education (there are many). This district is not behind in tech because of staff members....it is behind because for 20 years we have spend the smallest amount possible on our kids, something to THIS DAY the BoE is proud of and lists as an accomplishment! Don't you think that needs to be changed for the sake of our kids growing up in the 21st century?
Robert Bressman January 20, 2013 at 01:13 PM
@chtulu2000, NO, Toms River wasn't a model for education 20 years ago, it was more like 50 years ago. And frankly, when my granddaughters teachers, husband is an attorney who works for the town and sends her home with home work, with misspelled words on it, yes I have to question her ability to be teaching. There is a lot more in the system than just her. Parents certainly share the blame in this, but in the 90's the District paid off a lot of good teachers to get lower paid friends and relatives into teaching positions. You don't have to be a teacher to see the level of decline in our District and while there are some good teachers, there are not enough to get us out of Abbott District scores. Money is not the answer, but screening people before we give them a job would help, and by screening I don't mean, what their last name is or who they are related to.
chtulu2000 January 20, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Drin the Kool Aid Robert. Blaming the staff for teaching in a school with NO innovative curriculum, NO cutting-edge educational programs, NO level of modern 21st century technology, NO incentive for the best qualified teachers to come here, and certainly NO support from our terrible admin and you still cannot see what you are talking about. Nepotism is a problem, yes (a SMALL problem) in TR...it is everything I listed above that is the problem!
chtulu2000 January 20, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Correction...Nepotism amongst the teaching staff is the small problem...nepotism amongst the administration and professional contracts is the real problem with it.


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