May 16 date for fate of school budget

Washington Township Committee to hear report from task force studying defeated spending plan.

By: Mark Moffa
   WASHINGTON — Residents will find out May 16 what reductions, if any, the Township Committee will make to the school district’s $22.7 million budget.
   The budget was resoundingly defeated by voters last month. The committee is charged with reviewing the spending plan and may make line-item increases or reductions.
   The committee appointed a task force April 25 to review the school budget. Committeeman Vince Calcagno, Committeewoman Cathy St. John, PTA member William Lesniak, Washington Township Senior Club President Mary Thederahn, Township Administrator Jack West, Chief Financial Officer Karen Baldino, Auditor Ron Ghrist, and Township Attorney Dave Kenny were asked to serve on the task force.
   The task force will make recommendations on the budget to the full Township Committee at a joint meeting with the school board at 7:30 p.m. May 16 at Pond Road Middle School.
   The school board appointed its own task force to liaison with the Township Committee’s task force.
   Superintendent Paul Harren, Business Administrator Chris Mullins, former board President Michele Siekerka, board Vice President Florence Gange, and board member Kevin Schick are on that task force.
   "Our task force is there to provide information to the Township Committee’s task force and to answer their questions about the budget," said current school board President Geoffrey Lewen.
   It is the Township Committee members who will decide the fate the budget on May 16. The committee’s task force has met twice already.
   The Township Committee must provide a statement to the Board of Education and Mercer County’s superintendent of education identifying any specific line-item reductions and increases, providing reasons for each reduction or increase. The committee also must certify that the revised budget is sufficient to provide a thorough-and-efficient education.
   The school board has 10 days to decide whether it will make any proposed changes or appeal the committee’s decision to Thomas Rubino, the county education superintendent.
   The committee then would have 10 days to respond to the school board’s appeal. If the school board does file an appeal, Mr. Rubino’s office will try to settle the dispute. If the committee and school board cannot agree and the board will not withdraw its appeal, then Mr. Rubino will make a recommendation to William Librera, the state’s commissioner of education.
   Decisions made by Mr. Librera’s office are final.
   Mr. Calcagno said he and Ms. St. John may have an update on the task force’s progress for the rest of Township Committee at the committee’s meeting tonight, Thursday, 7:30, at the municipal building off Route 130 North near Robbinsville-Allentown Road (Route 526).