Monday, March 20, 2017


The Board of Education on Saturday adopted the preliminary 2017-2018 budget, which includes a $130 million spending plan and a tax hike of 3.56%, or an average increase of $249 per home in Maplewood.

As we reported last week, the budget includes the addition of some 14 staffers, including many middle school teachers, but with cutbacks in other teaching positions -- such as elementary world languages -- as well as fewer supplies and some textbooks.

"The budget is intended to help us move our mission forward," Superintendent John Ramos said at the special meeting Saturday.
"The budget you are seeing this morning is really a reconstruction."

The board voted, 8-1, on the budget adoption, with Board Member Johanna Wright voting no. It now goes to the county superintendent for approval and a final board vote in April.

The budget includes a 3.56% tax hike in Maplewood. That means the average Maplewood home assessed at $396,992, and currently paying $8,474 in school district taxes, will see a $249 increase to $8,723.

The budget includes the addition of 11 employees. Among them are six middle school teachers (three at each middle school), one elementary school teacher, one special services teacher, a new high school assistant principal, one custodial supervisor, one part-time nurse and a part-time safety and security director.

But the budget also cuts between eight and 14 other employees, with up to seven teachers - three world languages (affecting fourth and fifth graders Spanish and Freshmen Latin classes at CHS), two physical education, and one each in math and science.

And another $1.7 million is saved through cutbacks in other staff, as well as books, sabbaticals and health care spending, according to Ramos. 

"I have a feeling with this budget that we have really, really done our due diligence," said Board Member Madhu Pai, who later added, "This will probably be the last year that I vote for a tax increase that is close to 4%."

Some concerns were raised at the reduction in world language teachers, at a savings of $169,000, by those who questioned the additional CHS assistant principal, which will cost $120,000. Student Board Member Philip Saulean said the language classes were more important than the additional administrator. 

Board members Susie Adamson, Maureen Jones and Donna Smith also objected to cutting the language instructors. "It's unfortunate to see world languages on the reduction column," Jones said. "I would love to see world languages re-imagined."

Board President Elizabeth Baker raised the question of whether the district would be penalized for the world language reduction, citing state regulations that say all districts must have K-12 world language classes.

Among the other changes is the institution of summer school tuition that would run between $250 and $350, depending on the class. But students in low-income families would not pay.

During a lengthy discussion at the meeting, Baker also noted that efforts are underway to seek other revenue sources, even fundraising.

"We have been beginning a series of meetings and discussions with parent associations about leveraging both their abilities in helping us raise money and expertise in a structured way," she said. "There are efforts underway within the district to be growing the revenue."

Baker cited groups such as the Achieve Foundation, Cougar Boosters, and PTA leaders who could help.

"There's discussion beginning on how can the PTAs work together in collective fundraising," she said. 

The next board action on the budget is set for April 24.

The board meets again tonight at 7:30 p.m. on other non-budget business during its regular monthly meeting. See that agenda HERE.

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