On Tuesday, March 21, 2023, Dr. Raymond González spoke to the Westfield Rotary Club about the Westfield Public School District, his experience in education, the roles of the Board of Education and district administration, and the upcoming public vote on the school district operating budget for the 2023-2024 school year.
Dr. González shared information about the proposed 2023-2024 school district budget, noting that Westfield residents will go to the polls on Tuesday, April 25 to vote on the budget and on three open seats for the Board of Education.
He stated that there will be two questions regarding the school district budget on the ballot.  Question 1 consists of the district’s base budget and represents a tax levy increase of 3.95%. Question 1 includes all existing staff and programs, along with enhancements to the mandated English as a Second Language (ESL) program.
Question 2, the superintendent said, represents a .89% increase to the tax levy and contains only additional staffing for the district’s academic support and school counseling programs.
Dr. González pointed out that Westfield has a reputation for quality education and a tradition of excellence, with a school community that has always been very supportive of the schools and a continuity of leadership that allowed the district administration to carry through on long-term programs.
However, after more than a decade of developing a school district budget with a 2% tax levy cap, along with increased costs in health care, transportation, and other expenditures, it has become harder to maintain existing staffing, programs, and offerings, the superintendent said.
He told Rotarians that 92% of the school district’s operating budget relies on the local tax levy.  Last spring, the district was forced to make reductions in staffing to meet the 2% tax levy cap after expenditures severely outpaced sources of revenue by $2.3 million.
In order to not only maintain existing staffing and programs but to begin to expand those programs, Dr. González said the Board of Education agreed last June to move the election from November to April and to put the school district operating budget before Westfield residents for a vote.
He encouraged Westfield residents to visit the April Budget Vote portal on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org for more information, including a list of community engagement sessions at which residents can get their questions answered.
Dr. González earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Princeton University, a Masters in Urban Education from Jersey City University, and Masters and Doctoral Degrees in Educational Administration and Supervision from Rutgers University.  
Before joining the Westfield Public School District as superintendent in August 2021, Dr. González was Superintendent of the Westwood Regional School District for 7 years. He held superintendent and assistant superintendent positions in Wayne, Hackensack, and Paterson, and served as a principal in Westwood as well.  Dr. González also was honored as the recipient of the Geraldine R. Dodge Fellowship Award for outstanding first-year teacher in Paterson.
The Rotary Club of Westfield meets the first three Tuesdays of each month for lunch at noon, at Limani Seafood Grill on North Ave. Guests are always welcome. For information check out the website www.westfieldrotary.com  or contact club secretary Dr. D. Michael Hart by email at drmhart@yahoo.com
Photo: Left to right: Rotary Club President Tony LaPorta, Rotarians and Superintendent of the Westfield Public School District Dr. Raymond González.