Last month, Secaucus voters rejected the school board’s proposed $33.1 million budget for the 2011-2012 school year. Under that budget, $32.1 million would have been raised through tax dollars and the budget called for a tax increase of 3.3 percent.
After that spending plan was rejected, a process was set in motion which, according to state law, allowed the Town Council to set a new tax levy and make budget cuts to reduce the financial burden on residents.
Under a budget proposal released by the Town Council yesterday, the BOE had the option to accept $1.4 million in spending cuts on utility expenses, professional services contracts, salaries, and other expenditures. Under this budget, school taxes would remain consistent from last year.
However, under this proposed budget the council requested that five line items that were cut in the school board’s original budget be restored. These five line items totaled $303,658.
If the BOE rejected this option, then the council required it to accept a spending plan that calls for $1.5 million in cuts and reduces taxes by 1.28 percent. Under this second option no line items cut in the board’s original budget had to be restored.
The nine-member board, which bristled at this ultimatum from the Town Council, accepted the second option and now has until June 9 to make $1.5 million in spending cuts to meet the mandated tax levy.
Thursday afternoon, Ron Smith, acting business administrator for the BOE, said, “I don’t know that we’ll make all the cuts the council recommended.”
The council had recommended cuts in diesel fuel costs ($25,000); electric utilities ($50,000); legal expenses ($10,000); salary ($100,000); telephone expenses ($40,000); health benefits costs ($475,000); and health broker fees ($125,000), among many other line items.
Several teachers in the Secaucus School District have already begun to receive what are known as “RICE notifications,” pink slips schools are required to send to teachers who may be terminated over the summer. – E. Assata Wright