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Concerned about Negotiations and the Board’s proposal to outsource the Instructional Assistants, REA members packed the Pond Road School’s cafetorium. Many stood up, speaking from the heart about their concerns for their colleagues and this district we all call home. 

Nick Reed read the following statement on behalf of all members:

Good evening. 

The REA proudly represents over 350 teachers, secretaries, paraprofessionals, custodians, transportation, and other certificated staff positions in our district schools. 

Last month, the REA expressed our concerns about the ongoing discussion to privatize our district’s paraprofessionals and urged each of you to reconsider that action.

We want to take a minute to applaud the Board of Education for its decision to disregard its plan to privatize our paraprofessionals. This is the right decision for our students, our staff, and our community. But we also want the community to know that the Board can reverse this decision. Since the Board officially notified the REA of its intention to outsource IAs, they have until May to seek and accept bids. The IAs can still be outsourced. 

The Board, Mr. Betze, and Mr. Mackres have stated there is a budgetary crisis. After careful analysis of the District’s audit, we have seen no evidence that there is a budgetary crisis. In fact, our analysis revealed that Robbinsville School District has plenty of money.  

Here is just a snapshot:

  • In 20-21, the Robbinsville School District brought in more than $260,000 in miscellaneous revenues than they budgeted for—which has been the consistent pattern for the last three years, and we have no reason to believe it will not happen again in the 2021-22 school year.
  • The Robbinsville School District brought in an additional $443,000 in extraordinary aid.
  • The Robbinsville School District brought in an additional $724,000 in grants and entitlements than they anticipated. 
  • The Robbinsville School District has $2.9 million more in surplus than they budgeted for.
  • Finally, when you compare the district’s actual revenues versus its actual expenditures for 2020-2021—the Robbinsville School District brought in $822,000 more than they spent during the fiscal year. 

That’s excluding the state aid and Federal COVID relief funds the District has and is poised to receive.

Budgets demonstrate priorities. President Joe Biden once said, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

Rather than making the choice to value staff—and the services they provide Robbinsville’s students—the Board and District administration are pretending there is a budget shortfall and willfully disregarding an available funding stream: banked cap.

Cap banking occurs when the school district or local government does not increase the tax levy by the full two percent allowable by law. The difference between the maximum two percent and the actual levy increase is ‘banked’, available for use in future budgets.

Our Board is choosing to let their banked cap expire. Over the past eight years, they let go of $859,000! If the pattern continues, they are poised to bank another $1.6 million into the 2022-23 school budget, we just hope they won’t let that expire, too.

And, most importantly, they are choosing to monkey with the programs and services that we provide to our schools’ most vulnerable population. 

This is not conjecture or a difference of opinion between labor and management.

This is clear arithmetic, backed by evidence.

On behalf of the 350 members of the Robbinsville Education Association, especially the 47 paraprofessionals whose careers are on the line—I am again urging this Board to make a choice:

Choose to let the numbers speak for themselves.

Choose to invest in our dedicated, essential support professionals.

Choose to better, not erode, the quality of the Robbinsville school district. 

Choose to favor decisions supporting the best interests of our students, our programs, and our community. 

Thank you. 

You can also see this article in the Patch