The lackluster economy is forcing people all over the country to tighten their belts, and the Hopewell Valley Regional School District is no exception.
In a discussion with MercerMe this week ahead of the March 13 HVRSD BOE budget meeting, Superintendent Dr. Rosetta Treece, BOE President Anita Williams Galiano, and Assistant Superintendent for Business / Board Secretary Robert Colavita expressed both their concern for rising costs and their insistence that they, and the rest of the District staff and Board members, will do everything they can to maintain the programs the community has come to rely on.
Williams Galiano said that, particularly because the times are so trying, the Board is making a concerted effort to reach the public to explain challenges the District expects to face in the coming years and the steps they are taking to ameliorate them.
Treece expanded on that, stating that – while they don’t have all the numbers yet – they still have not yet received the amount of State aid the District will receive, which is six percent of the budget – they know that the District, like everyone else, is facing unprecedented inflation that will cause costs to rise dramatically. “Everyone knows the challenges we have had with transportation; health care costs are through the roof as is workers’ comp.; the costs of fixing things has increased; teachers contracts are not increasing at the rate of inflation. These are the kinds of challenges that everyone in the community and the State are facing.”
Recruiting and retaining staff is paramount to maintaining programs. While the District now is 100% staffed for transportation and all routes are covered, they have no subs, which is very challenging if someone calls out. In making plans for the coming year, staff is looking at consolidation of tasks throughout the District through attrition where possible to contain costs. Yet, the three maintained a very strong dedication to the level of value the community has come to expect in the HVRSD and assured the community that everything will be looked at holistically.
“I am proud of who the Hopewell Valley District is,” said Treece. “Throughout the State, we are trendsetters. Our students and teachers receive accolades nationally. We have an excellent rating. When people are looking to move, they look for where the good school districts are, and they move here. We send out great global citizens into the world and, often, they turn around and come back to raise their families here because we have such a great program. Above all, we don’t want to lose what makes us great.”
Getting into the nitty gritty of numbers will come as the budget season develops. Colavita explained that while there is some banked money from prior years that can be used, there still are many moving parts. Getting the numbers of what the State aid may be and whether the Governor will award any additional monies to school districts remains paramount to making decisions.
Williams Galiano said, “We have been in a generous place classroom-size wise. We have been able to bring home students who had been placed out of district. This doesn’t just happen – an enormous amount of work goes into making this the great district that it is and we don’t want to lose any of that. It might look elegant on the outside but there are people with hammers and screwdrivers behind the scenes every day making it work, and this year, we are going to need some extra tools.”
Treece summarized: “Though we are facing tough times, we are committed to maintaining what we value and hold dear.”
To view the District’s primer on School budgets, from the meeting on February 28, please click here.
The first budget meeting of 2023 is scheduled for March 13. Per the HVRSD website: “Agendas for all scheduled meetings of the Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education will be available for posting on the Friday before each Monday meeting. All Regular meetings will begin at 7:00 p.m. and will be held at the Administration Building 425 South Main Street, Pennington, NJ 08534 unless otherwise noted….In addition, Board meetings will be live streamed to the public via the District’s YouTube channel. A recording of the meeting will also be available via the YouTube channel following the meeting.”
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