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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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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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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BOARD PASSES BUDGET, TAX INCREASE

rb-budgetBoard members Ann Roseman and Ben Forest at Tuesday night’s session. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Board of Education unanimously passed a $19 million budget Tuesday night, a spending plan that will increase the tax levy if voters approve it next month.

Even with $1.4 million in reductions in the general operating portion of the budget, to $14.1 million, the budget will result in a 3.75 percent increase to the tax rate due to a drop in revenues and the state-mandate that local school districts use surplus funds to compensate for state aid cuts, school officials said.

Property owners would see an approximate 2 cent increase per $100 of valuation their tax bills, to $0.5371. For the owner of a home assessed at the borough-average $405,000, that would mean $2,175 in taxes, excluding levies for the the borough government, the regional high school and Monmouth County.

To make up for a steep cut in state aid to the two-school system, positions had to be eliminated — though there haven’t been any layoffs — and, among other extracurricular programs, all athletics at the middle school were dropped.

“To me that’s just incredible,” said a displeased Ben Forest, who heads the board’s finance committee.

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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.

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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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