This past week, Chesterfield Superintendent Scott Heino, along with members of the school board held a special meeting on next year’s budget. About 30 parents were in attendance. Chesterfield Elementary is $500,000 in deficit for next year. According to Heino, 80% of the school’s budget is salaries and benefits.
In the past, the school has had other sources of income, such as the sale of the old school and insurance money from the multiple fires that occurred during the building of the new school. Those are not available this year.
Many parents at the meeting asked the board to not terminate classroom teachers, which would raise class sizes. For first grade through 3rd grade, the average class size is 21 students. For 4th through 6th, that number is 24 students, and in the last few years, the school has been averaging 43 new students per year.
Several parents, in urging officials not to eliminate a classroom teacher, mentioned other school programs. “[We] would hate to see classrooms leave… We can supplement arts after school,” one parent said. Students really need math and science at school, multiple parents added.
There were essentially two big topics discussed at this parent/school board meeting. The first was what the school shouldn’t cut out of the budget, and the other was an in-depth conversation about how we got in this school funding situation.
Superintendent Scott Heino said that when NJEA (New Jersey Education Association) testifies to lawmakers, they are somewhat neutral when it comes to how school’s should be funded. Jersey City is one of the most overfunded districts, and they just hired a lawyer to protect their money.
Heino said, “If there’s not a significant change in the way school’s are funded, we’ll be having this same meeting this time next year.” An Assembly Budget Committee is taking place on the morning of March 22nd at Rowan at Gloucester. At 7pm on March 22nd, the Joint Committee on State Funding, which is the work of the Chesterfield Township Committee, and the Chesterfield School Board, will have its first meeting.
Heino said at the meeting “[it] comes down to people when we run out of things to cut.” He said when it comes to who might be laid off, “There’s no way we’re not touching a classroom teacher.”
Board President Jignesh Shah said “Whatever it takes, we will try our hardest to save bodies… I know the situation we’re in. I’ll do everything in my power to save every position I can.”
At the next meeting, the School Board will be presenting the preliminary budget, but it won’t be until April 29th at the budget hearing when we might hear what positions may be cut.