Posted online Monday was, "7 highlights from Middletown schools' audit", which pointed out some very good news for the district:
- $206,501,974: This figure includes all the money that flows into the district, most of which is property taxes. In 2015, total revenues were $192.8 million.
- $137,004,630: The township schools are the single-biggest contributor to the bottom line on your property tax bill. The district collected about $4 million more from homeowners in 2016, an increase of 3 percent from the previous year. Local taxes make up 76 percent of the public money that fund Middletown schools.
- 206,168,208: Transportation was one area that shot up. Getting students to and from school cost $10.8 million, or $866,000 more than in 2015.
- $75,592,658: The cost of instruction increased by less than 1 percent from 2015. The $570,000 in new money went to negotiated salary increases and a handful of new positions. The certified teaching staff was counted at 922.
Cost per pupil
- 9,698: For some perspective, 10 years ago the district had 427 more students in class on an average day. There are 12.6 pupils for every teacher. The national average is about 16 to 1, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
- $16,510: This represents the highest amount the district has ever spent, but it's still relatively low. The average district in New Jersey was paying close to $20,000 for each student in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the Taxpayers Guide to Education Spending.
- $68,920,000: That's down $3.8 million from the previous year. The district's bond rating remains at "AA", which is the second-highest rating that Standard & Poor's assigns. Generally speaking, the higher the rating, the less it costs to borrow money. About 4 percent of district spending goes to paying down debt and interest.
I would like to see some of that savings "banked" for a rainy day because I know theater are things coming down the line that will cost the district big time over the next couple of years.
The other article posted yesterday, "Middletown school board hires outside lawyers for ethics dispute", however is what gave me pause and the need to think before posting about what I had experienced after watching the BOE video. During a 20 minute discussion (triad really) beginning at 1:12:00 mark of the video, Middletown Board of Education disfunction once again raised it's ugly head.
In essence, a last minute item was added to the night's Agenda that many Board members weren't fully aware of. That item was for the approval of the hiring of the law firm of Giordano, Halleran & Cielsa, PC as special counsel to represent 5 Board members in connection with the several ethic complaints they filed against fellow member Joan Minnuies, some of which has been dismissed, while some others have been bumped up to OAL litigation.
For this representation, the school district will be paying any legal bills associated with the litigation of the 5 individual Board members, Vinnie Brand, Bob Banta, Ernest Donnelly, Michael Donlon and BOE president Jim Cody at the rate of $250/hour for litigation counsel and $100/hour for paralegal/legal assistant time with NO cap on the fees!
When the items was being introduced, Board member Sue Griffin made a motion to table the item until the following meeting, when the new BOE could discuss it further and decide whether it was appropriate or not to continue. After a heated argument between Griffin, Brand and Cody erupted about due diligence of board members still sitting on the Board and what was actually stated in the legal agreement that was to be voted on, the board went into executive session to discuss the item further.
Again you can watch the whole exchange staying at the 1:12:00 minute mark of the video.
In my opinion, this is outrageous and utter waste of tax payers money. If the School Ethics Board dropped some other charges against Joan Minnuies but couldn't decide on others and referred them for OAL litigation to pass the buck so to speak, then the charges aren't worth pursuing if it means that it could cost the district tens of thousands of dollars! And that's not easy for me to say, I'm not a big Joan Minnuies fan. All this comes down to now is a very expensive, personal vendetta against Minnuies by her fellow board members - two of which, Brand and Banta, will no longer be members of the board, when legal action will proceed and representation will be needed sometime next year.
If action does move forward on this now frivolous legal action, than I think Vinnie Brand and Bob Banta should have to pay for their own legal expenses since they will no longer be members of the Board of Education.
There has also been outrage expressed by some Middletown residents HERE and HERE on Facebook over this.
But, as Board president Jim Cody stated during the video, there's nothing really to worry about. No money from the school budget will be allocated for legal fees. The cost of legal fees will come out of the BOE's Legal Services budget. HA-HA, ain't that great! It's all one and the same to me.
I would expect that once the new Board takes control next month this issue will be looked at once again and the correct decision will be made to kill this nonsense once and for all.