Millstone school budget eliminates 16 positions

BY JANE MEGGITT Correspondent

MILLSTONE — The district will retain its bus drivers if the school budget passes on April 20. If not, transportation will be outsourced.

At the March 29 public hearing on the budget, Board of Education President Tom Foley said that the drivers, originally scheduled to be axed to save $250,000, would be spared due to health and safety concerns. The school district employs 35 transportation workers.

“We got a lot of emails from parents, indicating how much they trust the drivers we have,” Foley said.

The district lost nearly 30 percent of its state aid, resulting in the elimination of two administrative positions, 10 teachers (with another teaching position changing from full to part time), four noncertified staff positions, an applied technology class at the middle school, and new social studies textbooks. If the budget does not pass, further cuts may be made.

The cuts in administrative positions mean that the elementary school will still not have an assistant principal next year. The director of community education position has also been cut, but the community education program will continue to run out of an enterprise fund, according to Foley.

The eliminated staff positions include the public relations officer, a clerk-typist in the board office and the middle school, and a custodian. Business Administrator Bernard Biesaida said that the industry standard is one custodian per 17,500 square feet, and the district is currently below standard with one custodian per 19,000 square feet.

“Next year, it will be 20,000 square feet per custodian,” he said.

The teaching positions eliminated include two in first grade, one in second grade, one in fourth grade and a primary school art teacher. The middle school will lose one applied technology teacher, two remedial teachers, a librarian and a physical education teacher, while the entire district will lose a part-time math content specialist.

Class sizes are projected to increase from 12 to 15 students in each preschool class, from 19-20 to 21-22 students in kindergarten, from 19-20 to 23-24 students in first grade, from 23-24 in third grade, from 21-22 to 25-26 in fifth grade, and from 22-23 to 24-25 in seventh and eighth grades. Class sizes in grades two, four and six will remain the same. Superintendent of Schools Mary Anne Donahue has said that class sizes could increase to 30 if the budget fails.

Millstone does not have its own high school, and has a send/receive relationship with the Upper Freehold Regional School District for Allentown High School. Tuition for each Millstone students will cost $13,005 next year. Foley said the state average for high school tuition is $13,860, while the median is $13,134.

If the budget fails, it will go before the Township Committee for a final decision. Foley said the district would consider outsourcing transportation, additional staff cuts, and increased facility use fees for all users if the budget fails.

Noting that this is the third year in a row that the district has not budgeted for capital improvements, Foley said, “There are leaks in all three [schools]. One day we will have to pay that bill.”