BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - At Tuesday night's Berkeley Heights Town Council meeting, the Council voted unanimously to cut $902,866 from the school budget. The Council suggested a list of cuts that amounts to $902,866 in savings but it is up to the Board of Education to decide how to save $902,866 from the school budget.
The resolution approved by the Council calls for the following reductions:
1) A two month pay freeze, amounting to a savings of $177,500, which has already been agreed to by the Berkeley Heights Education Association (BHEA)
2) Teacher reimbursement reduction of $62,460
3) 1 high school teacher retirement, $57,703
4) 1 first grade teacher reduction, $59,000
5) 1 second grade teacher reduction, $60,966
6) 1 high school science teacher reduction, $72,221
7) 1 secretarial reduction, $45,486
8) Text book purchase reduction, $40,000
9) Library book purchase reduction, $19,000
10) Transportation coordinator reduction, $55,200
11) Computer technology reduction, $43,000
12) Maintenance employee reduction, $44,000
13) Courtesy bussing reduction, $74,000
14) Imposition of student activity fee, $67,300
Councilman Bruno said that these cuts total $902,866 but "where the school board takes the money from is up to the school board." Resident Carol Matula said "this is not even close to enough" cuts. She said taxpayers should not have to pay for a 4% raise for teachers given the current economy.
Board of Education Vice-President John Sincaglia said that the Board had sent a formal letter to the BHEA asking that negotiations be reopened but the Association declined the Board's request. He said that was the Association's right to do but he did not want the public to think the Board did not make a formal request that negotiations be reopened. 9 Sincaglia also said that with these cuts, it puts the budget $500,000 below the budget of two years ago. He said that the budget is 2 ½% lower than the current year and called the Council's budget proposal, "a responsible response" to the budget's defeat on April 20th.
Councilman Bruno said that he hopes the BHEA and Board of Education are able to negotiate a sidebar agreement to have the teachers pay 1 ½% into the medical plan, which could save the jobs of teachers currently on the chopping block. "My only interest is to save jobs and save the quality of education we have," he said.