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Wayne Co, NJ: Staff cut to "make up for rising cost in SPED"; 'troubling trend'

May 13, 2024, NorthJersey.com: Wayne school board cuts 14 jobs, cites 'troubling trend' in $190.8M budget approval

WAYNE — Fourteen positions have been cut from the K-12 district budget for next year to partly make up for a rising cost in special education, officials said.


Student support services are a “stress point, right now,” said William Moffitt, the district's business administrator. The staff reduction, he said, is one component of a proactive method to address it.


The overall budget for the 2024 school year is $190.8 million — a decrease of 3.25% from this year.


The spending plan will be supported by a tax levy of $171.65 million. As a result, the average property owner, with a home assessed at $230,435, will see a tax bill increase of $204.


The Board of Education approved the budget at its most recent public meeting, along with a separate measure to authorize the staff reduction.


The cuts included two high school guidance counselors, two high school science teachers, a high school language arts teacher, three middle school permanent substitutes and two middle school physical education teachers.


In addition, four part-time guidance counselors were let go.


Schools Superintendent Mark Toback said some of the roles were abolished through retirement attrition and that the counseling jobs were lost due a drop in COVID-related aid from the federal government. Essentially, he said, the district is returning to the staff level that existed before the pandemic.


Moffitt referred to the drop as a “budget cliff.” The district was accustomed to the federal funding, and then, he said, “it goes away.”


“I think that’s putting pressure on everyone’s budgets,” Moffitt said. “At least, that’s my opinion.”


At the same time, the need to invest in student support services is greater.


This year, Moffitt said, officials made significant adjustments to the budget after it was approved. About $2 million more was spent on special education and tuition, and an estimated $300,000 was added to the line item for transportation, which encompasses busing for out-of-district placements.


Moffitt said he expects that “troubling trend” to persist. Officials are staying ahead of the issue, he said, by continually monitoring the economic outlook of the district.. . .



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