SECAUCUS – After a four-hour meeting Thursday night, Schools Superintendent Cynthia Randina and the Board of Education (BOE) made a 180-degree change, and reversed a decision made earlier that afternoon to reject a budget ultimatum made by the Town Council.
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.
In reversing their decision, Randina and the BOE have now decided to accept a revised budget developed by the Town Council that makes $1.4 million in spending cuts and keeps last year’s tax levy intact. In addition, the BOE agreed to reinstate five programs and other line items that had been cut from the original 2011-2012 budget. These five line items totaled $303,658.
Under a budget proposal released by the Town Council on Wednesday, 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 remain consistent from last year.
The council had given the school board until 2 p.m. Thursday to either accept its revised budget or accept an alternative spending plan that would require deeper spending cuts totaling $1.5 million. Under this spending plan the tax levy would have dropped by 1.28 percent and no line items cut from the board’s original budget would have been restored.
At 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Board Administrator Ron Smith said the BOE had decided to reject the council’s revised budget and would accept the second alternative presented to it.
However, on Thursday night the school board did an about face and reversed the decision made earlier in the day.
The budget adopted Thursday night will maintain the current school tax levy, make $1.4 million in spending cuts, and restore the five programs and line items the council wanted reinstated.
Those line items include Camp Wappalany; extracurricular and co-curricular activities; a guidance counselor; supervision for the elementary lunch period; and work hours for teachers’ aides. – E. Assata Wright