NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The New Providence Borough Council set a date of next Monday to meet with the New Providence Board of Education to discuss last week's defeated school budget. This was the first time the budget was defeated in the borough in 20 years. The mayor and council will meet May 3rd at the Council Chambers at 8 p.m.
Borough voters tallied 1,358 to 1,223 against the budget at the April 21st elections. If the budget were approved the funds collected through the tax levy would have been $30.9 million, a 4.7 percent hike compared to 2009-10, and it would have meant a $284 increase on a home assessed at $285,000.
If Monday's council meeting is any indication, there is sure to be plenty of discussion over what the body will do with the 2010-11 budget. With the defeat of the school measure, it goes to the municipality's governing body for the final local decision. The mayor and council do not necessarily have to make cuts to the budget. They have the option of not making any cuts.
If the Council makes cut, the Board of Education has the right to appeal the decision to the New Jersey Commissioner of Education. The Board of Education could also approve the cuts and then it would be sent to the Union County Education Commissioner for signoff.
The school budget, along with hundreds throughout the state, appears to be the victim of the state-wide thirst to cut costs and keep tax increases to a minimum. According to the backers of the budget who appeared at Monday's council meeting, the school district made plenty of reductions in the budget that was voted on.
Proponents of the budget asked the governing body to not make any cuts. However, those voters who voted against it said the vote against the budget was significant enough that the Council needs to make cuts.
Dan Miller, a parent, pointed to the Board of Education already slashing middle school sports and other programs along with cutting at least 18 positions. "I am asking you guys to have the courage and keep it as is," said Miller, a resident favoring the proposed school budget, at Monday night's council meeting. "In my mind it is worth paying. To cut more from the school budget, it would be cutting real programs."
However, another resident, Pat Moschetti, said that the Council needs to make the cuts to justify the vote. "For any corporation and entity they can find efficiencies in what they do," said Moschetti. "There are lots of things in the school that are nice, but there is room for improvement. It behooves you to make a reduction for the future and people who voted."
Another resident, Cathy Cirrotti, supported the idea of not making any cuts to the school budget. "I thought the school board did a phenomenal job on the budget," said Cirrotti, pointing to the Board having to make cuts with a reduction in $1.48 million in state aid. "I thought it (the reduction in state aid) was pretty harsh and the board did a good job." Cirrotti said that the borough should take out their tax angst against the Union County budget. "It's not the right place to fight," said Cirrotti. "The kids can't be affected by this."
In addition to the school budget discussion at Monday's meeting, the Council is looking at making repairs to the gymnasium that is in borough hall. Borough officials pointed out problems with the tiles on the ceiling along with the lighting and the ventilation system. To fix the problems in the gymnasium could cost from $68,000 to $100,000, but much of the work could be completed in-house, officials said.
Also, the borough is one of the finalists to receive a Purple Heart monument that would go in Veteran's Park on South Street. If chosen by the Military Order of the Purple Heart as one of the few towns in the state to receive one, the unveiling could be as early as July.