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PAIN, AND AN INCREASE, IN SCHOOLS BUDGET

rb-boeThe Red Bank Board of Education begrudgingly approved a preliminary budget Tuesday night that increases the tax levy. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Board of Education unveiled a preliminary budget Tuesday night that, as expected, is going to sting.

After-school sports? Gone. Field trips? Not unless somebody else pays for them. Supplies? Reduced.

Six positions would be eliminated under the $19.9 million spending plan, said Superintendent of Schools Laura Morana. The board also suspended non-essential and non-emergency maintenance at the borough’s schools, among other things, in order to cut costs.

“We’re really, basically, putting off everything that needs to be done,” said Annie Darrow, the board’s business administrator.

The 2010-11 budget was presented just hours after Gov. Chris Christie laid out the state’s fiscal plan, which included a reduction in state aid of up to five percent for individual school budgets — which, by the Red Bank’s calculations, would mean negative $55,780. Last year the borough received $2.5 million in aid, but because Red Bank is home to a charter school, most of it is usually funneled to the charter.

Combined with the state aid reduction and fixed costs, the education budget as presented Tuesday would reflect a two percent, or $232,086, increase over the current tax levy.

Morana couldn’t say what kind of effect Christie’s budget will have on the borough’s pre-k program, except that it won’t expand.

“We should be hearing sometime this week,” Morana said. “Definitely this month, that’s for sure.”

The state budget is yet to be finalized, and therefore Red Bank’s education plan will likely change, officials said. Surely the borough’s fiscal picture is going to look vastly different from this time last year, when the board touted a reduction in school taxes.

Board member Ben Forest wasn’t pleased to be voting ‘yes’ on Tuesday night.

“I feel, should this happen the way it’s outlined, a lot of damage will be done to the education system here in Red Bank,” he said. “I hate having to vote for it but I don’t see any other choice here.”

A public hearing on the updated budget will be held at the Red Bank Primary School on March 30, with an adoption vote following shortly thereafter, Morana said.

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