Sunday, April 14, 2024

Frelinghuysen Learns About Events, Projects, a New Board Member and the Tax Levy Rising 2.57%

The Frelinghuysen Township School board of education met on Wednesday, March 20. Photo by C. O’Chang, 03/2024.

As chief school administrator Jarlyn Veras said at the beginning of Frelinghuysen’s board of education meeting on March 20, “This March has been filled with special events and fun activities for students.”

The meeting had its share of interest for adults, too, in the form of the school’s preliminary budget for next school year and the appointment of a new board member.

Veras filled in the board and attending members of the public on Frelinghuysen Township School’s recent special events. They included Read Across America week, an assembly that brought in the Sussex County Miners baseball team and excitement around spring clubs, particularly Lego Club.

Veras appeared especially spirited while reporting a recent visit from “the snake man,” an educator who brought a menagerie of snakes and other reptiles to Frelinghuysen for the students’ entertainment and education.

“It was very instructional and the kids enjoyed it,” Veras said. 

Veras thanked the PTO several times for their support of these programs, particularly their coordination of the “very successful” book fair and their sponsorship of the reptile assembly.

After her CSA report, Veras gave the floor to business administrator Greg Brennan for the meat of the meeting: an overview of Frelinghuysen’s preliminary budget for the 2024-2025 school year. 

The tentative budget for next year will see about $305,000 allocated for building projects. These funds will be drawn from the school’s capital reserve, a specially designated fund that has slowly accrued over the years and kept separate from the school’s operating budget. 

Brennan took care to explain that Frelinghuysen is not obligated to use these funds for any specific building projects. Any unused funds will return to the reserve at the end of the school year. At the moment, the board anticipates potentially using the funds to phase in LED lighting in classrooms and work with an architect on a long-range facility plan. 

Aside from building projects and the specific fund earmarked to fund them, the school’s primary operating budget has increased compared to last year. The rising costs stem mostly from an increase in contracted salaries and the cost of providing health benefits. 

Brennan explained that after accounting for anticipated revenues like grants and state aid, Frelinghuysen had an $85,000 budget gap between its revenues and its expenses. In the proposed budget, the school will cover about $59,500 of this gap with a tax levy, an increase of 2.57% compared to last year. Another $12,000 will be reallocated from a budgeted funds balance, leaving the school to free up $13,000 elsewhere in its budget.

The board approved the preliminary budget for submission to the county. There will be a public hearing on the proposed budget on Wednesday, April 24, at 7 p.m. 

For its last agenda item, the board interviewed David Togno, who had applied for the vacant board position. Togno shared that he and his family had moved to Frelinghuysen about three years ago and his children attend the school. He has attended several board meetings in that time. 

“I think that what you do is very important,” Togno said. “You see it in this meeting… you know, you have a budget right now, it’s a tight budget, and some important decisions have been made that are going to really affect the quality of education that we get. And I’d like to be part of it.”

After the brief interview, the board approved Togno’s candidacy. Pending a criminal background check, he will be sworn in as the board’s latest member at the next board meeting. His term will run until next January.

Chip O'Chang
Chip O'Chang, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Chip O'Chang is an educator, fiction writer, and lifelong resident of New Jersey. He has also written for My Life Publications and NJ Indy. He lives in the NJ Skylands with his partner, two cats, and and a bearded dragon.