School board accepts $566K cut in budget

Staff Writer

School board accepts
$566K cut in budget
Staff Writer

HOWELL — The Board of Education voted May 19 to accept a resolution passed by the Township Council that reduced the local tax levy for the 2004-05 school year by $566,000.

The adjustment by the council was made after voters defeated the board’s proposed $97 million budget for the coming school year in the April 20 school election.

Nevertheless, property owners will pay more in K-8 school taxes next year, as the tax rate will increase by 15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to about $1.95 per $100.

The owner of home assessed at $150,000 will pay about $225 more in K-8 school taxes in the coming year and the owner of a home as­sessed at $300,000 will pay about $450 more. The cut made by the council will save the owner of the home assessed at $150,000 about $15 and the owner of the home assessed at $300,000 about $30 over the board’s initial projection.

The $566,000 reduction will be realized through savings to the dis­trict from the state’s Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP). At least 15 teachers, and perhaps more, are expected to avail themselves of the ERIP, ac­cording to school board projections.

The board has until June 9 to re­port to the township the final num­ber of teachers opting to take ad­vantage of the program.

Before voting on the budget reso­lution, the mayor and council members discussed their concerns that the ERIP might prove detri­mental to the district.

Mayor Timothy J. Konopka and Councilman Peter Tobasco said they were worried the district was losing experienced educators who would be replaced by less quali­fied teachers.

Deputy Mayor Cynthia Schomaker said she thought Konopka and Tobasco might be "jumping the gun" in assuming that the early retirement of some teach­ers means their replacements will be inexperienced. Schomaker said she knew of many teachers em­ployed in other districts who would "love to come here."

When told the council had dis­cussed concerns about experienced teachers being replaced by educa­tors with less experience, board member Robert Antonaccio, who chairs the finance committee, said the concerns were not warranted even though losing the experienced teachers was "not something we’re thrilled about."

Antonaccio said there is only so much the board can do in prepar­ing its budget. He said contracted salaries, benefits, transportation and debt service account for about 85 percent of the budget.

"We try to do what we can with the remaining [amount]. You look at what choices you have and make the best of what you have. It’s sad to see experienced teachers go, but what are our options? Frankly, not many," he said.

He said, however, that due to the new federal No Child Left Behind Act the district will be gaining teachers who have already been taught the mandated curriculum and that will save some money that would have been used to retrain teachers who may now decide to retire.