LAKEWOOD – The Lakewood Board of Education has unanimously approved a new budget that raises taxes, asks the state for additional financial assistance, and includes a maximum allowance of $ 750,000 for legal fees, the bulk of these funds going to Michael Inzelbuch, counsel and spokesperson.
But Inzelbuch told reporters on Friday that he would not get a raise, even though his current salary is $ 600,000, plus litigation costs. He stays a long-lasting compensation leader among New Jersey school employees or contractors.
He said the new line for legal fees is $ 100,000 less than the $ 850,000 allocated last year.
“I didn’t get a raise. I earn less than that,” he said. “Sorry if that was misleading.”
Nonetheless, the board attorney’s compensation is likely to attract close scrutiny as the tax-troubled school district renews its appeals to Trenton for additional financial assistance.
The the budget approved Thursday also calls for a $ 59.9 million loan from the state and requires a tax hike of almost $ 100 for the average homeowner, with a property valued at $ 332,330, depending on the district.
Over the years, Inzelbuch’s compensation has been presented by critics as evidence of mismanagement and oversight of the district.
An Asbury Park Press investigation last year found that Inzelbuch increased his annual compensation during the 2018-2019 school year to nearly $ 715,000, which includes a provision of $ 50,000 per month and expenses.
State Senate Speaker Stephen Sweeney last year called Inzelbuch’s contract “outrageous” and made it clear that it would remain an obstacle for Lakewood to receive further state aid.
Last year, the Senate cut a $ 30 million district aid package that Governor Phil Murphy had proposed in his budget. Township schools eventually received a loan of $ 36 million from the state.
The current loan request is $ 1.19 million lower than the $ 61.1 million proposed when the schools budget was presented in March. The approved budget is $ 204.1 million, which is 101,370 less than originally presented.
The board meeting was webcast Thursday evening on the district’s website. In this format, public “attendees” are asked to e-mail questions or comments for Superintendent Laura Winters to read aloud.
The only question that was asked during the public comment period had nothing to do with the budget.
Transportation costs continue to be a challenge for the district.
The Lakewood Board of Directors is to provide bus services to over 35,000 non-public school students, in addition to approximately 6,000 public school students.
The cost of bus transportation for students in non-public schools is $ 33.92 million, compared to $ 31.86 million in this school year’s budget. The district has long complained that the state’s school funding formula does not adequately compensate the district for non-public student bus transportation.
Before presenting this budget, Robert Finger, company administrator and secretary of the board, said township schools “can only trust what we know” and the budget was shrouded in uncertainty.
“There are a lot of ifs, there are a lot of variables right now,” Finger said.
The state extended its fiscal year from June 30 to September 30. Schools in Lakewood will likely have to wait until the end of the fiscal year to see if the district will receive a sixth loan in as many years.
“Things may change by September,” Finger said. “As in previous years, we have always approved our budgets on multiple occasions because we have to wait for our state loan numbers and if the state was going to carry over previous loans.”
If granted, Lakewood’s loan balance will reach $ 139.4 million, a tab that no other district in the state has reached. Last year, the state loaned $ 36 million to township schools.
Gustavo Martínez Contreras covers Lakewood. Contact him at [email protected] or 732-643-4061.