Middletown school officials unhappy with $2.1 million budget cut

It will be interesting to see what action the school board takes when it votes on the adoption of the new school budget on May 26th. Will they accept the recommendations made by Gerry Scharfenberger and the Township Committee or will they look at other areas in the budget to cut the $2.1M from? Either way the prospects don’t sound good for the school system.

From the Asbury Park Press

MIDDLETOWN — Eliminating vice principal positions would jeopardize safety and the ability to implement state mandates, Schools Superintendent Karen Bilbao said she told township officials recently as they discussed prospective cuts to the district’s tax levy.

The Township Committee recommended eliminating two vice principal positions as part of its order Monday to cut nearly $2.1 million from a proposed $123.8 million tax levy that voters rejected last month.

Other recommended cuts are the jobs of one of the district’s two assistant business administrators, a night foreman and a public relations official.

The committee voted 4-0 Monday night to order the tax levy cut. Township Committeewoman Pamela Brightbill was absent.

Under the reduction, school property taxes would increase by 1.7 percent instead of 3.9 percent, Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante said. The school tax rate would increase by 2.3 cents instead of 4.2 cents per $100 of assessed value, he said.

“This is really going to impact the quality of education in the district,” Board of Education Vice President Dan Skelton said Tuesday. “I don’t know how we are going to continue.”

The final cuts contained several suggestions made by the district, Bilbao said, including an $803,878 adjustment to the health insurance plan appropriation, a savings of $465,829 by refinancing a bond and a $150,000 reduction in nursing services costs.

But the suggested administrative salary cuts — a vice principal from each high school at a savings of $130,000 annually each, a $126,000-a-year director position and a $91,000-a-year assistant business administrator position — came as a surprise to her, Bilbao said.

High School North has six assistant principals and a principal while High School South has five assistant principals and a principal. During the 2007-08 school year, High School North had 1,651 students while High School South had 1,451 students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics website.

Appeal not likely

The board will meet in a special closed session later this week to discuss the additional cuts, said Bilbao, who anticipates a vote on the final budget during a May 26 meeting.

Barring a successful appeal to the Monmouth County schools superintendent, the school board must cut the amount the governing body ordered, but does not have to follow the committee’s recommendations on how to do so.

Skelton does not anticipate the district will attempt to appeal.

“I don’t know if this is the type of political climate where you can appeal,” Skelton said.

The committee initially was set to cut about $1.6 million, but decided to continue chopping after it received hundreds of e-mails from residents upset about their taxes, Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger said.

“There are going to be a lot of people complaining that we did not cut enough,” Scharfenberger said.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, budget cuts, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Board of Education, School cuts, Superintendent Karen Bilbao

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