School district proposes funding increases for security, maintenance, transportation

Central Valley. Muslim students return to request holiday recognition.

| 04 Mar 2024 | 10:30

The Monroe-Woodbury Board of Education is looking ahead to the 2024 to 2025 academic year as it begins its budget process and continues the search for a new superintendent.

During the February 28 meeting, the board listened to a budget presentation that focused on buildings and grounds maintenance, data processing, school safety, and transportation. The presentation did not include payroll, as this is scheduled to be covered at the March 20th meeting.

With Federal COVID-related aid set to expire, the Monroe-Woodbury district must contend with the loss of an important funding source. In addition, increases in health insurance premiums, capital projects and growing enrollment impact the budget. However, the district projects it will receive about $89 million in state aid to help offset the rising costs.

Projected security costs, excluding payroll, are expected to increase slightly from around $771,000 to $774,000. This includes an estimated $71,000 for security-related equipment, including additional cameras and $4,500 for security training.

The buildings and grounds department projected about $6.4 million, which includes $300,000 for building improvements and $1.93 for maintenance. Last year’s adopted budget was about $6.2 million. The department highlighted projects completed, including the renovated computer lab at Central Valley, the replacing of a sewer line at Pine Tree, and repainting of the cafeteria at North Main.

Technology remains an important part of the budget, as the digital needs of both the students and district continue to evolve. The proposed technology budget outlined the district’s commitment to ensuring students have access to the newest digital innovations, while ensuring their information is secure. The district proposes an estimated $4.31 million in funding for instructional aids, data processing, and library media.

Non-public school students continue to impact the transportation department, which is requesting about $15 million for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, an increase of about 17% over the current year’s adopted budget. Notably, the number of students needing transportation to yeshivas has increased steadily each year. The transportation department noted that the district is obligated to provide this service so long as certain conditions are met by the residents. Non-public school transportation will also include the return of the Don Bosco Prep route.

Alongside hearing proposed budgetary requests, the M-W BOE provided an update on the superintendent search. District Wise, the consulting firm aiding in the hiring process, has met with various stakeholders, including both public and non-public school parents, students, and other community members. The M-W BOE has not participated in these forums to ensure anonymity is maintained. The board added that feedback provided to District Wise will help shape interview questions.

BOE student representative Michael Martinez spoke on behalf of his fellow students, noting that they are looking for a candidate who will represent their needs and communicate with them effectively. He highlighted some of the challenges students face, including testing anxiety, and encouraged the district to consider the growing diversity of the student population.

Holiday recognition request

Speaking to the diverse nature of the population, two M-W students, Zayed Kadir and Bisma Malik, spoke on behalf of the Muslim students in the district, requesting that the board consider adding two district holidays for those who observe the holidays of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. Noting that both festivals include morning prayers that take place during school hours, the student representatives shared that this puts many Muslim students in the position of having to choose between their schooling and their religious observance.

The students suggested using two of the district’s already scheduled administrative days as a means of accommodating students who wish to observe the festivals and stated that precise dates of the holidays (which are part of a lunar calendar) can be given when requested.