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UPDATE: Kinnelon BOE Addresses State Aid Increase

Kinnelon Board of Education talked about plans for the $322,824 additional state aid the governor has promised.

The  addressed potential uses for the $322,824 increase in state aid the district is slated to receive this year during a meeting Thursday. Board Member William Hickey said the money could be used to lower the costs of next year's pay-to-play student activity fees, contribute to the general fund balance and be used to somehow reduce class sizes.

On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie announced an increase in school aid statewide. Kinnelon is slated to receive $880,010 total in 2011-2012. Last year, the district received $557,186.

Hickey said that of the additional money, about $42,000 was actually charged of the district for capital repairs to and schools, bringing the actual amount down to about $280,000. 

Hickey said the district was planning to budget $200,000 for pay-to-play for next year, but with the additional money, the district could cut that down to $100,000, therefore lowering the fees for students who participate. With the pay-to-play policy, students pay a fee, which was $150 this year, if they participate in athletics or drive and park at school. Students who do not participate in athletics or drive to school but participate in clubs were charged about $60. Pearl Miller students who participated in afterschool activities were charged $60.

Superintendent James Opiekun said the district was looking at increasing these fees next year, as the fees that were in place this year were not bringing in enough revenue, and the fees could have been about $400 per student. If the district is able to allocate some of the additional money to the policy, Opiekun said the fees would likely still be increased over this year's, but not as high as $400 and possibly just half as much.

About $125,000 would be put toward the general fund balance, Hickey said, and the rest of the additional money would go toward reducing class size, which could include adding a teacher.

Prior to the meeting Thursday, Board President Dr. Allen Kirk said he is pleased with the amount of state aid Kinnelon Public Schools will be receiving this year, but that he is unsure of whether the increase will be enough to sway voters to support the district's budget, which was voted down last year.

"Basically, I'm pleased," he said. "In addition to last year's aid, I'm very pleased."

He also said he would have liked to see more of an increase-a sentiment echoed by Opiekun at the meeting.

"It certainly is not enough of an increase to really expand or progress, as we have in the past," Opiekun said at the meeting.

Opiekun said that being able to at least stabilize is a good thing though, as opposed to more cuts, and that it appears that the district will be able to do so with the upcoming budget. 

"We know that we can at least maintain, at least for one more year, what we're doing at this point," he said.

The Kinnelon Board of Education is currently working on the district's budget and plans to present it to the public in upcoming months before asking them to vote on it in April.

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