preliminary budget
From left, board member Anne Mernin, Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak, BOE President Laura Hertzog and Vice President Franklin Turner discuss the budget during the Monday, March 19 BOE meeting. ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

The Montclair Board of Education officially approved the preliminary budget for submission to county officials Monday night, but not without some turbulence.

The board had to take a second vote after the first vote resulted in four abstentions and three yes votes, not enough to pass the budget.

The abstention votes on the first round were from Jessica de Koninck, Anne Mernin, Eve Robinson and Franklin Turner. On the second round of votes, only Mernin and Robinson continued to abstain.

Prior to the vote, several board members voiced concerns that the board was not doing a sufficient job in making sure the budget lined up with the district goals.

The board would have had to schedule another budget meeting if the budget did not pass that night, according to Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea.

BOE President Laura Hertzog, after the first vote, said that she was surprised that board members were raising concerns about board goals at such a late stage in the budget process.

The budget had had a $1.5 million deficit at the time of the board’s last budget meeting. Since that time, D’Andrea reported that the district was now within budget. Montclair received an additional $500,000 in state aid on Thursday, bringing the district’s total aid allotment to $7.4 million.

However, the administration is still considering taking the health benefits waiver from the state, a move that would allow the district to ask taxpayers for additional tax money.

The board announced that it will not be eliminating bus aides from the budget at this time. The proposal to eliminate bus aide positions, a move that had been proposed in order to help fill the budget gap, did not sit well with many parents and some board members.

After the second vote, Hertzog thanked the administration, including D’Andrea and Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak, for their work. As for the budget vote, Hertzog called the momentary disagreement “a bump in the road.” “But I’m glad we passed over it, and I look forward to seeing everybody next week,” she said.

The budget now goes to the county for review and recommendations, after which the board will adopt the final draft of the budget on March 28.

This is a developing story. Follow the Montclair Local for more information.