$140 million Middletown school budget calls for tax hike, layoffs

Here is the latest news from last night’s Middletown Board of Education budget meeting, I couldn’t make it there so I have been waiting for word about what transpired:

BY JENNIFER BRADSHAW – The Asbury Park Press

MIDDLETOWN — The Board of Education unanimously approved a proposed $140.3 million budget tonight that calls for a 3.9 percent tax increase and 124 layoffs to close a gap in the spending plan.

Superintendent Karen Bilbao said in order to make more than $9 million in cuts, all nontenured teachers in the district would have to receive notices of nonrenewal.

Supplemented by a $123.8 million tax levy, the budget had to be substantially trimmed after state aid was cut by $7.2 million for the 2010-11 school year. In addition, $2.8 million in state aid was cut from this year’s budget.

After the state announced its aid numbers for 2010-11, layoffs grew to 72 teachers, 20 paraprofessionals, 16 secretaries, eight facilities staff members and seven administrators for $4.1 million in savings.

At the crowded meeting, Bilbao asked the public not to think of the cuts as “people” but rather as “positions,” meaning that tenured teachers in those cut positions could be reassigned.

Bilbao announced at the meeting that she, in addition to several others in the central office, would be freezing their salaries for a year, in light of the cuts.

According to the district, the 3.9 percent total tax increase will add $183 a year in taxes to an average assessed home of $435,000.

If state aid cuts had not been so deep, the tax increase would have been 2.7 percent, the district said.

Tonight’s meeting was the first introduction of the district budget, originally scheduled to be unveiled at the March 18 workshop meeting. It was postponed after state aid numbers came out a day earlier.

Bilbao also said the district teachers union was asked for a salary freeze regarding the following school year, as well as a freeze on stipends for those teachers involved in extracurricular activities, but both requests were denied.

Linda McLaughlin, president of the teachers union, read from a prepared statement in defense of the union’s stance, stating that the existing contract between the union and the district was hard to come by, after hostile negotiations in previous years.

The teachers of the district are also taxpayers and not exempt from economic troubles, she said. A freeze would “(Make) our families even more vulnerable in a shaky economy,” she said.

Earlier in the month, it was announced that the district was already working with a $4.3 million budget hole, caused by increased district costs, and a loss of $2.8 million in surplus funds, through an executive order mandating all districts to use the money in their surplus accounts to cover expenses for the remainder of the 2009-10 school year.

Business administrator Bill Doering then said that the district’s surplus funds are often used as budgeted tax relief for the coming school year, with an absence of those funds causing a hole in the subsequent year’s budget.

To see the Final Budget Presentation and the Final 2010-2011 Proposed Budget from the Middletown Board of Education, you can go to the BOE’s website by clicking >>> Here to read them.

This is a bad job by the teachers union when so many in Middeltown and around the state are hurting, they should be ashamed of themselves! What about the families of the 124 people that will now lose their livelihoods in this vulnerable economy?
It’s just another case of I have mine to hell with you if you don’t have yours.
They should have accepted the wage freeze.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, layoffs, Middeltown Board of Education, MTEA, NJEA, tax increase

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