March 10, 2023
Dear Robbinsville Community,
The Robbinsville schools received very disappointing news from the state this week - we are the only school district in Mercer County to not see an increase in state aid funding for the upcoming school year. Under the state’s revamped funding formula, we expected approximately $2 million more to support our upcoming budget. And, despite approximately a 7% inflation rate, that did not happen.
We find it outrageous and wrong that the Robbinsville schools did not get the funding to which we are entitled. And it places the Administration in a difficult position, as we are facing increased fixed costs. For example, there is a $600,000 increase in our custodial contract, an $850,000 increase in transportation, a $500,000 increase in medical insurance, $1.1 million in increased salaries, and other rising expenses because of inflation.
With all of these increased costs, we were stunned to learn the state did not provide the additional support that neighboring school districts received. And, thus, despite our conservative budgeting process, we are now facing a major deficit.
Our challenge now is how to make these cuts as painless as possible. Even going to the 2% or $800,000 budget increase limit and exhausting all of our banked cap amounts, which we are fortunate to have from past years for our use, we are still nearly $2 million short of a balanced budget. In some ways, it is especially challenging because of the strides made in adding positions, enhancing instructional resources, and making long-overdue repairs to our schools. Yet, we are required to make major cuts to present and approve a preliminary budget by next Tuesday.
Right now, I cannot tell you exactly where the cuts will be made. There are certainly difficult decisions ahead. However, I can share our goals of ensuring the highest quality educational service to the community of Robbinsville while preserving every possible program. Our targets in facing these cuts are very clear:
- Limit reductions (staff and resources) in the classroom to the maximum extent to ensure continued high-quality education;
- Preserve as many programs as possible;
- Continue the district’s dedication to high-quality instruction and innovative curriculum which have a direct impact on student achievement; and
- Continue to improve instructional efficacy through quality professional development
We are not approaching budget reductions lightly, and I am committed to providing you with accurate information in a timely and straightforward manner. I ask that you do not adhere to rumors or falsehoods which may be promoted. Those lead to uncertainty and gossip, redirecting our focus.
In an effort to help ease uncertainty, I am sharing our prioritization for budget cuts. Please keep in mind that as the Administration and Board of Education review our budget, and the process moves forward, this list could change.
- Reduction or elimination of low-priority budget items
- Delay facility improvements and upkeep
- Reduction of technology resources
- Increasing district fees
- Reduction of transportation expenses and opportunities
- Reducing extracurricular activities
- Increasing class size
- Staffing reductions
How can you help?
Robbinsville was the only district in Mercer County to not receive any additional state aid funding. This angers all of us. Changes must be made at the state level to ensure we are not in this position again. Your voice can be empowered by reaching out to our elected state representatives and asking for assistance. This website links you to State Senator Linda Greenstein, Assemblyman Dan Benson, and Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo.
There are incredibly difficult decisions ahead. While making them, our focus will remain on providing the best possible educational opportunities to our students.
I will continue to update you as the process moves forward, and, as always, I welcome your feedback.
Brian J. Betze