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SHREWSBURY, LITTLE SILVER OK RBR BUDGET

shrewsburyHere’s lookin’ at you, Red Bank; Shrewsbury Mayor Terel Cooperhouse. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank Regional‘s fiscal fate is now in the hands of Red Bank’s governing body, which will be the last of the school’s three sending districts to vote on the high school’s failed $24 million budget.

Both Little Silver and Shrewsbury councils gave unanimous approval to $270,500 in cuts to RBR’s 2010-11 spending plan Monday night, capping off several weeks of discussions aimed at reducing the bottom line after voters rejected the budget.

But two out of three won’t get the job done. Shrewsbury Mayor Terel Cooperhouse said if any one of the three sending boroughs votes down the cuts, the school board will have to go to the county and state for a green light on school spending.

“I’m anxiously awaiting to see what happens tomorrow night,” Cooperhouse said Monday, regarding a special meeting in Red Bank tonight.

The council will meet at 5p to decide on the school’s trimmed spending plan. The reception among council members has been lukewarm, with some saying last week that they needed more information before making a decision.

At last week’s meeting, council president Art Murphy pushed for a ‘no’ vote for the cuts, demanding that the teachers’ union accept a wage freeze to mitigate further layoffs and program cuts.

Approximately 70 teachers, staff, aides, security, part-timers, were reported to have received non-renewal notices on April 30.

The talks among the three boroughs and the board of ed have been ongoing the last month, and heated up in recent weeks, but it isn’t clear what they’ve specifically entailed, except that the $270,500 figure was mutually agreed upon.

Red Bank Councilman Michael DuPont said last week that Red Bank first suggested a zero-increase to the budget, but that idea failed. With this new version, which does not include a wage freeze, he said there would be additional layoffs.

Jonathan Bitman, a Little Silver councilman, said he wasn’t directly involved in the discussions, but from the feedback he’s received from fellow councilmen, the borough is satisfied with the cuts.

“The people involved in the process, they spoke openly that they thought the process was very good. They were pleased with the board of education,” he said. “They said it was a very open-air communication — very upbeat.”

Same goes for Shrewsbury, whose voters went in favor of RBR’s initial budget on April 20.

Councilman William Dodge, after voting in favor of the cuts, said that he felt good about the discussions with the RBR board, and that it’s important for the council to represent the intent of the voters who approved the budget.

“I think we have a good foundation to approve this,” he said.

Meg Gerth, who is involved in RBR’s Parent-Teacher Organization, came out to Shrewsbury’s meeting to thank the council for its approval.

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