5-7-24 LRHSD BOE Adopts 2024-2025 Budget

  • On Tuesday, May 7, 2024, the Lenape Regional High School District (LRHSD) Board of Education adopted a $167.2 million General Fund budget for the upcoming 2024-2025 school year. This budget reflects a slight 0.09% increase over the previous year. However, it also faces significant challenges, notably a reduction in State Aid by $4.7 million, equivalent to a 20% decrease. This decrease in State Aid is amidst ongoing declines in funding, an outdated funding formula, increased demands for special education, and rising operational costs due to inflation.

    LRHSD Board Finance Chair David Stow underscores the board's dedication to fiscal responsibility to the eight communities it serves. The district remains one of New Jersey's top-performing school systems. Notably, LRHSD maintains a lean administrative structure, spending below the state's mandated limit on administrative costs per pupil. According to the New Jersey Department of Education’s Taxpayer’s Guide to Education, the LRHSD continues to rank as one of the best performing school districts in the state with the least number of administrators per faculty member and student, as compared to similar districts.

    This year’s alarming decrease of $4,692,106 in State Aid (close to 14 times the decrease than what was anticipated) represents a concerning trend. In 1994-1995 State Aid comprised nearly 40% of the overall budget, however state aid only comprises 12.24% of the total budget for the upcoming school year.

    Superintendent Carol Birnbohm noted several flaws with the way in which New Jersey funds education, “The school funding formula created in 2006 and adopted in 2008 does not address the current needs to operate schools, particularly concerning school security, transportation, the increased needs for essential services like mental health support, and our heightened reliance on advanced technological infrastructures.” Special education funding remains inadequate, with LRHSD facing a shortfall of over $4 million compared to the actual special education aid provided to LRHSD. Moreover, external factors like the tax levy cap, healthcare legislation and other external factors further strain the budget, necessitating drastic spending reductions.

    To balance the budget, the board has implemented various measures, including utilizing one-time revenue sources, proposing new fees, and reducing staffing and programs by over $10 million. These measures include discontinuing support for programs like Chancelight, an alternative education program, and implementing cost-saving measures in security and non-mandated special education programs. Next year there will be a fee for graduation caps and gowns and the Board will no longer pay for optional assessments such as the PSAT or the Seal of Biliteracy Test. Parents will also have the option of purchasing a warranty for the required Chromebooks LRHSD provides for all students.

    The budget also entails staffing reductions for over 100 positions through scheduling efficiencies, eliminations, retirements, and resignations and will be cutting over twenty-stipend (extra pay) positions. Additionally, certain programs such as Navy JROTC, gymnastics, bowling, and twenty clubs will be eliminated due to low enrollment or cost considerations. Stow noted that students who selected JROTC at Cherokee may opt to transfer to other JROTC programs in the district and individuals in gymnastics and bowling are eligible to qualify for the NJSIAA Individual Sectional and State Championship events.

    However, the board aims to restore a significant portion of these planned cuts if crucial legislation is passed. The Assembly passed Bill A4161 and the Senate must now move forward with their version, Bill S3081. This legislation will provide immediate relief for over 140 school districts and greatly reduce the planned cuts to staffing and programs in LRHSD.

    The Board and administration are committed to advocating for immediate relief as well as legislation which will improve the school funding formula for next year and beyond. Parity in funding will ensure LRHSD remains leaders in academic excellence, boasting a 97% graduation rate across its four high schools and exceeding state and national averages in various academic benchmarks, and continue to offer diverse programs to meet the needs and aspirations of all its students.

    Budget information, including tax impacts for each sending district, is posted on the Lenape Regional High School District website, www.lrhsd.org. For more information, contact Business Administrator Kara Huber at 609-268-2000, ext. 556500, or khuber@lrhsd.org