COUNCIL WANTS MORE INFO ON RBR CUTS

rbr-signRBR will likely have more layoffs and program cuts since its budget failed last month, officials warn. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Borough Council wants more specifics before it votes on a resolution that would call for additional layoffs and program cuts at Red Bank Regional.

Voter rejection last month of the high school’s $24 million budget has already resulted in layoff notices to 70 employees, according to one report. But faced with approving an additional $270,500 in reductions on Monday night, the council held off, members said, because there wasn’t enough information from school officials on how that figure was reached.

“Where’s the $270,000 from? What number is that?” a visibly peeved Council President Art Murphy asked Councilman Michael DuPont, who heads the borough finance committee. “That’s what I want to know.”

“We need more facts and figures from the RBR board of education,” Councilman Ed Zipprich said. “We need to make sure we do a careful analysis before we make a decision.”

Representatives of the Little Silver high school and its three sending towns — Red Bank, Little Silver and Shrewsbury — have had two meetings on the budget since it failed on April 20.

The $270,500 figure was, according to a notice on the high school’s website, mutually agreed upon by town leaders at their most recent get-together last Thursday.

But there are still questions from the municipal end.

DuPont told redbankgreen that the figure was the result of discussions with the school board to tighten the budget to a manageable number without directly affecting classrooms. Those discussions haven’t yet gotten to the point that Red Bank officials had hoped.

When the parties first met, DuPont said, the three towns told the school board to draft a zero-increase spending plan and return with a list of what its implications would be. He also said they urged that the district’s teachers take a wage freeze.

DuPont said the board came back with two budget proposals: One including a pay freeze and staff reductions, and another without a pay freeze, and consequently a larger number of cuts to staff and programs. DuPont said the school’s teachers’ union declined the wage freeze.

“There are going to be layoffs, yes,” DuPont said.

Already, according to a notice distributed by RBR’s Parent Teacher Organization, approximately 70 teachers, staff, aides, security, part-timers, were given non-renewal notices on April 30. 

A joint statement from the school board and governing bodies of RBR’s three sending towns says that even with the $270,500 in reductions, there will be additional layoffs and programs eliminated. The statement also encourages that the union take an immediate wage freeze.

But because the union has rejected that idea, Murphy is against voting ‘yes’ for the additional cuts.

He said the borough is talking about laying off employees and police officers as it deals with fiscal problems, and yet the teachers’ union rejected the idea of a yearlong freeze. Meanwhile, Red Bank teachers took one, he said.

“We are hurting over changes on this end of the stick,” Murphy said. “And Red Bank Regional doesn’t even want to discuss (a pay freeze). I have a problem with that.”

He went on: “They can take it to the state if we don’t approve it. Now’s the time to draw the line in the sand.”

The council agreed to move the vote to a later date, likely at a special meeting. DuPont said the chief financial officer and borough administrator will try and get more information from the school board before Red Bank makes any decision.

“We want more time to study this,” Councilwoman Kathy Horgan said, “because it’s a really serious thing.”

Like other school districts across New Jersey, RBR took a heavy blow from a cut in state aid when it lost $1.2 million for the 2010-11 school year. The spending plan rejected by voters was 1.9 percent smaller than the year-prior plan but called for a tax increase.

The council, as well as Little Silver and Shrewsbury’s, must submit a decision on additional cuts to the school board by May 19.