Wednesday evening Lakewood Public Schools introduced its 2021-2022 budget. Here are the highlights.
- Board attorney Michael Inzelbuch will continue to receive annual compensation of $750,000, more than any other school board attorney anywhere.
- Lakewood’s unusual demographics–6,500 Hispanic students in public schools, 35,000 or so ultra-Orthodox students who attend religious schools and are entitled to transportation and, if eligible, special education services–upends New Jersey’s school funding formula, currently a subject of litigation. The disparity between revenue and costs rises every year; the district makes up the difference with “loans.” This new budget calls for a loan of almost $71 million.
- If the state approves this loan, Lakewood will owe the state almost $200 million. Business Administrator Robert Finger called state allocations to Lakewood “unsustainable.”
- The budget projects tuition payments of $51,120,870, almost entirely for ultra-Othodox special education students who enroll in private schools that serve ultra-Orthodox students with disabilities. (Two hundred Lakewood children attend the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence, which charges $123,679.50 a year, not including transportation or one-on-one aides.)
- The budget projects $37,474,534 in transportation, $2 million more than last year, largely for busing 35,000 children to the 130 or so yeshivas in Lakewood
- In-district parents are voting with their feet: Charter school tuition payments are up by about $2 million, for a total of $7.5 million.
- The Board has budgeted salary increases for staff. (Whatever it is, it won’t be enough: the district’s insistence on full-time in-school instruction during even the worst of the pandemic led to COVID contagion for 131 teachers and other employees.)
- In a surprise move for a school board almost always in lockstep, one board member, Shlomie Stern, voted “no” on the budget approval. The final vote was 5-1.