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.

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M’TOWN GOES ONLINE FOR BOE BUDGET INPUT

mtwon-screenshotMiddletown’s website offers a link to submit comments and suggestions on cuts to the schools budget. (click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

So you’ve got an idea how to trim the Middletown schools budget, but can’t make a municipal meeting. Or you’re nervous about putting your ideas out there in public. Maybe you just don’t want to get out of your pajamas and make a trip to town hall.

The good news is that you can sit tight at the computer desk and still be productive.

Middletown officials, who are in the midst of working with the board of ed on trimming the district’s  voter-rejected budget, are now taking suggestions and ideas online from residents to get a sense how the bottom line can be reduced.

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ROWERS RESCUED AFTER SQUALL FLIPS SHELLS

rowing-3-050310One of two shells manned by teen rowers arrives at a residential dock on Fisher Place after flipping in the Navesink. Below, a distraught woman, said to be a coach, recounts the incident for police. (Click to enlarge)

rowing-1-0503101A sudden wind storm that blew through the Red Bank area turned into an ordeal for eight teenaged rowers as two shells flipped in the Navesink River late Tuesday afternoon.

All the rowers, said to be female members of the Ranney School‘s crewing club, were plucked from the water safely, though all were taken by ambulance to Riverview Medical Center for checkups.

“They were all cold and wet,” said Captain Darren McConnell, spokesman for the Red Bank Police Department. He said the girls were roughly 15 years old.

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M’TOWN TEACHERS REJECT FREEZE REQUEST

mtown-workshopMiddletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger discusses the “jousting” between the town and district teachers’ union at Monday night’s committee workshop. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

At the eleventh hour, Middletown’s teachers’ union responded to Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger’s request that teachers accept a one-year wage freeze.

Nope.

Scharfenberger said the Middletown Township Education Association rebuffed his request for the freeze, which he estimates would save about $3 million in the failed $140.3 million education budget.

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RBR GETS HANDS-ON WITH THE LENNON BUS

lennon-bus2RBR’s Fab Five students, who had a chance Thursday to record a song in the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Short of a class trip to Abbey Road Studios, it’s tough to compete with what Red Bank Regional students were treated to on Thursday: The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a sleek, sky-blue recording studio on wheels that typically garners reactions similar to that of Matt Dubrow, a senior.

“I’ve been recording studios before, but never one on four wheels,” he said. “It’s awesome. It’s awesome.”

The bus, named for one of the Fab Four and outfitted with top-of-the-line instruments and recording equipment, made the stop to give a select group of students the chance to record a song and music video in the bus. All other students and staff had an opportunity to geek out over the Lennon paraphernalia and instruments on display outside.

“It’s kind of like field day, but for music,” said Kerry McNulty, RBR’s band director.

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RESIDENTS SWEAT BUDGET DETAILS

rb-budget-042810Participants in last night’s Q&A on the Red Bank budget pick up info packets. (Click to enlarge)

Red Bank officials held a marathon budget walk-through before a standing-room crowd at borough hall Wednesday night, laying out the rationale for a plan that calls for a property tax increase and the possibility of furloughs for government employees.

Over the course of three and a half hours in an increasingly stuffy council chambers, they also addressed every one of 90 suggestions put before them by former GOP council candidate Kim Senkeleski, who had gathered the ideas for submission.

Given their opportunity to speak, though, audience members most wanted to talk about wringing some tax money out of the borough’s outsized population of nonprofits.

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M’TOWN SCHOOLS IN ‘INVESTIGATION’ MODE

mtown-boeTwo of the three newly-elected board of ed members, Vincent Brand, left, and Chris Aveta, at Wednesday night’s meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Middletown Board of Education could staff a detective bureau with all the investigating it’s doing and has ahead.

Investigating was the buzzword from the district Superintendent Karen Bilbao Wednesday night when pushed for details on where and how cuts would be made to the district’s $140.3 million budget, which was rejected by voters last week.

As in, will more teachers have to be laid off? She’s investigating.

Or, will there be redistricting, or school closings, as Bilbao has hinted at before?

“Closing a school or more than one school is one of the areas we said needed to be investigated,” Bilbao said.

“We are investigating a lot of things at this point.”

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M’TOWN MAYOR WANTS TEACHER PAY FREEZE

hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

With a voter-rejected schools budget now landing in the lap of the Middletown Township Committee for recommended cuts, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger is calling for township teachers to accept a one-year pay freeze, a move he estimates will save the district $3 million.

“That’s pretty significant,” he said. “That would go a long way with saving jobs, with very little effort.”

Scharfenberger, echoing Governor Chris Christie, put out the request on Friday, just days after the school board’s $140.3 million budget was handily defeated and three board incumbents were voted out. Scharfenberger said that was the voters showing support for such action.

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A READY-FOR-RAIN HAT

colmorgen-042210Red Bank crossing guard Carl Colmorgen, who works the corner of Broad Street at Harding Road/Reckless Place, arrived at his post last Thursday in a spring chapeau garnished with forsythia, courtesy of a neighborhood mom. (Click to enlarge)

Clearly, we’re in the ‘April showers’ phase of that old adage about showers and flowers.

The National Weather Service forecasts a high probability of rainfall today, with a diminishing chance Tuesday and Wednesday. The outlook gets briefly sunnier after that.

Here’s the forecast:

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A HANDS-ON EARTH DAY

rbcs-earth-day-042210

Among the commemorations of the fortieth Earth Day Thursday was a day of cleanup, planting and distributing flowers to neighbors by students at the Red Bank Charter School, above.

An Earth Day fair was held at the Red Bank Primary School, where children made recycled paper and cut-out butterflies, below. (Click to enlarge)

rbps-earth-day-042210

GROUPS PREPARE EARTH DAY EVENTS

earthA close-up view of planet Earth. (Click to enlarge)

Done2Here are some announcements of Earth Day activities scheduled for the next few days:

Earth Day Celebration at Red Bank Primary School

Got Earth Day plans? If not, please check out the Earth Day Exposition at the Red Bank Primary School on April 22nd.

Organized by Primary School teacher Christina Vlahos, with support from the Red Bank Green Team (of which Christina is a member), the event showcases student projects and demonstrations, educational opportunities, and local businesses and organizations.

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FAIR HAVEN TEACHERS AGREE TO PAY FREEZE

hot-topic right

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Answering the call of Gov. Chris Christie, Fair Haven teachers agreed to a one-year pay freeze on the same day voters hit the booths and approved the borough’s education budget.

The deal was made at 3p Tuesday, said Mayor Mike Halfacre.

Details of the negotiations won’t be available until the contract is ratified, which should be in the next day or two, said Fair Haven Board of Education member Katy Frissora.

“We worked pretty hard over the last 24 hours to get this done,” she said. “We’re really excited about this.”

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UNION TAKES FREEZE, AND GUV HAS PRAISE

hot-topic right[Update: This article replaces an earlier version, which cited contract terms that Superintendent Laura Morana says were reported incorrectly in both the Asbury Park Press and the Star-Ledger.]

Gov. Chris Christie has offered pointed praise for a pact, finalized late last week, under which Red Bank teachers agreed to a three-year wage freeze.

Christie’s called out the deal was in an opinion piece under his byline in the Star-Ledger Sunday. That followed Thursday night’s ratification by both the teachers’ union and the Red Bank Board of Ed of a contract that will bump each of the district’s 130 teachers up to the next pay grade in two of the three years, Superintendent Laura Morana tells redbankgreen.

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ON TUESDAY’S BALLOT: SCHOOL BUDGET BLUES

rbboe-041410Red Bank residents at Wednesday night’s presentation on the borough school district budget, led by Superintendent Laura Morana, below. (Click to enlarge)

morana-041410

Hoping to whip up support for a spending plan crafted in the midst of what Superintendent Laura Morana called “incredibly devastating” cuts in state aid, Red Bank school officials brought their mini roadshow on this year’s proposed budget to voters again last night.

Appearing at the River Street Commons senior citizens’ center — once, the River Street School — Morana sought to demonstrate that her administration built its $19 million spending plan from the ground up, with an eye toward maintaining the quality of education for the two-school district.

The spending plan goes before voters next Tuesday. Bottom line, for the owner of a home assessed at the borough-average $405,000: a 3.75 percent tax increase of $77.78, or $6.49 per month.

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LONE CANDIDATE FACES THE VOTERS

naacp-041310Ben Forest, below, met with residents Tuesday night in a forum sponsored by the Red Bank NAACP. (Photos by Anthony Trufolo; click to enlarge.)

ben-forest

It was board of ed candidate’s night last night at Red Bank’s Calvary Baptist Church.

That’s right: ‘candidate,’ singular. The Red Bank school board, though it has three open seats in next week’s election, has only one declared candidate: incumbent finance committee chairman Ben Forest.

He fielded questions at a sit-down hosted by the local chapter of the NAACP.

“There was a lot of concern about budget cuts, particularly cuts to the athletic program,” Forest tells redbankgreen.

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RBR ALUM LOVE

people-in-the-newsYou’ve got a former scholar-athlete, a top environmental lawyer, a local councilwoman and a scientist — just a few Red Bank Regional grads to be feted at an alumni dinner this month.

For its ninth annual Distinguished Alumni Dinner on Friday, on April 16, the high school will honor ten former students who graduated between 1950 and 1987. The public is encouraged to attend to celebrate its “local heroes,” said Maryanne Kligman, information coordinator for the high school.

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DuPONT: TAX NON-PROFITS

dupontRed Bank Councilman Mike DuPont says it may be time to end tax-exemptions for most non-profits.

In the latest round of verbal sparring between Red Bank officials and the town’s representatives in Trenton, Councilman Mike DuPont has floated what he hopes is a solution to the borough’s fiscal woes that all can embrace:

Tax non-profits.

It’s done elsewhere, and is under consideration in additional locales, DuPont says in a March 18 letter he sent to state Senator Jennifer Beck.

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CHALK ONE UP TO ASKING NICELY, IN PUBLIC

lisa-tegenLisa Tegen came into work at Java Stop two weeks ago to find this message on the chalkboard. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It isn’t quite as audacious as, say, proposing on a JumboTron or a Port Authority bus with the media on hand to witness.

But one Fair Haven teenager earned big community points — and secured a prom date — for his creativity with a coffee shop chalkboard one night two weeks ago.

That’s when Rumson-Fair Haven junior Pat Gunther left something at the Java Stop for his girlfriend, Lisa Tegen.

When she came into work the next morning, she was caught off guard by the shop’s chalkboard next to the door.

It read: “Lisa, will you go to prom with me? Call me, Pat.”

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MORANA: “WE’RE NOT GETTING ANYTHING”

IMG_6290While dedicated funding will pay for an expansion of the pre-K program, nearly all of the remaining state aid would be passed through to the Red Bank Charter School, Morana says.

The news from Trenton had Red Bank school officials elated, disappointed and “confused” all at once yesterday.

Elated because the state allotment of funds to schools under Governor Chris Christie’s austerity plan will put enough money into the district for an expansion of its highly regarded pilot pre-kindergarten program.

But baffled and deeply let down because, as it stands, the borough will net just $24,000 for all other needs, after deducting funds the two-school district is obligated to pass-through to the Red Bank Charter School.

Against a proposed $19.9 million spending plan, the state’s contribution is barely perceptible, says Superintendent Laura Morana.

“We’re not getting anything at all,” she told redbankgreen yesterday. It’s so perplexing to local officials that they are pressing the Christie administration for an explanation.

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QUESTIONS HAMPER DRAFT SCHOOL BUDGET

laura-moranaRed Bank Schools Superintendent Laura Morana talks to the local press Thursday about the district’s bleak budget outlook . (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The waiting, as Tom Petty sings, is the hardest part. Only, he wasn’t working on a multimillion dollar school budget when he penned that tune.

Laura Morana, like so many school administrators in New Jersey who must have drafts of next year’s budgets turned in soon, is playing the waiting game, left in the dark by Gov. Chris Christie’s somewhat nebulous pledge to freeze state aid to school districts in order to make up for a huge budget gap.

When she sat down on Thursday to talk with the local press, the Red Bank schools superintendent was bouncing between budget meetings, just a couple of the many she’s had in the last couple weeks.

She’s already reconciled with the fact that the state is in a financial hurt locker. She’s even OK with dipping into the district’s $701,000 surplus to compensate for the reduction in aid, albeit begrudgingly. But considering she has to have a draft 2010-11 budget turned into the county prior to Christie’s state budget presentation on March 16, Morana would like to know what to expect.

“Right now we’re dealing with a million questions and nothing else. No answers,” she said. “You just don’t even know.”

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SNOW-JAMMED? TELL THESE FOLKS

hot-topic rightMore than a week after the second of two blizzards walloped the Red Bank area, pedestrian access to many crosswalks remains blocked by deep piles of snow left by plows.

The folks from Safe Routes to School want to help.

A handful of them took to intersections around Red Bank last night to clear paths through bulwarks of snow, ice and slush that seem to be going nowhere for a while, even with yesterday’s temperature in the high 30s.

“The warmth has made it easier to crack through to the bottom ice, but it’s still a slushy mess,” says organizer Marc Dostie.

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