RED BANK GIVES LAST OK ON RBR CUTS

hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A week after delaying a vote on reductions to Red Bank Regional‘s failed $24 million budget, the borough council gave the green light on $270,500 in recommended cuts at a special meeting Tuesday night.

Sports, clubs and programs are spared in the new spending plan, but eight positions will be eliminated, Superintendent Howard Lucks tells redbankgreen.

“It did include eliminating positions. It included a wage freeze [for Lucks]. It included a reduction in force,” Councilman Michael DuPont said.

The council’s vote last night put to bed a month of meetings and discussions over the $18.5 million operating portion of the budget that voters shot down on April 20. Shrewsbury and Little Silver, the school’s two other sending districts, both gave their approval on Monday night to the reduced plan, which now calls for $18.2 million in spending, said RBR business administrator Christina Galvao.

The RBR board of ed will meet tonight to finalize the new budget, Lucks said. Although workforce reductions are included in the new plan, the board has the power to trim in whatever areas it sees fit. But Lucks doesn’t believe the board will deviate from the recommended cuts.

“We got the OKs. The board is meeting tonight. I feel that we’re OK,” he said. “I’m just glad we got to the point where we approved this.”

Although Shrewsbury and Little Silver granted approval to the updated spending, Lucks said there was a bit of uncertainty on Red Bank’s end.

Council members, citing the need for more information on the impact of the reductions, held off a scheduled vote for the budget last week. Between then and last night, DuPont said the council’s concerns and questions were fully satisfied. There was no pressure, he said, to OK the spending changes after the other two districts did.

“We took our time,” he said. “All the council people wanted to understand the budget and the implications of it, and did the best they could.”

Red Bank had asked for the school board to draft a zero-increase budget after it failed. DuPont said that plan would have included teacher layoffs and the elimination of certain clubs and sports programs.

Council members also wanted the teachers’ union to follow the lead of Red Bank teachers and take a pay freeze, a request that was declined. Only Lucks, who was due a $4,000 raise to his $158,000 salary, forfeited an increase for the 2010-11 school year.

For Lucks, who took over as superintendent last October, his time as head of the school has been a trying one, given the state and district’s fiscal situation.

“I had a very short honeymoon,” he said. “The failure of the budget certainly caused a lot of gray hairs and a lot of frustration.”

The school board will convene at 8 tonight at Red Bank Regional to finalize the budget.