School district currently seeking $31.6M budget

BY JANE MEGGITT Correspondent

MILLSTONE — School won’t let out for summer vacation until June 17, two days later than originally scheduled.

The Board of Education voted Feb. 14 to revise the school calendar and change the last day of classes because of snow days. The board also voted to change the half-day session scheduled for March 3 to a delayed opening to keep the calendar in sync with the Upper Freehold Regional School District (UFRSD), according to interim superintendent John Szabo.

The UFRSD provides bus transportation to Millstone students under a shared services agreement. The UFRSD used two of its three allotted snow days as of mid- February, and will make a final determination about its last day of school on April 1, according to the board office.

The Millstone Board of Education continued budget discussions during the meeting despite not knowing the amount of state aid the district would receive for the 2011-12 school year. School districts were scheduled to learn their state aid figures Feb. 22.

The proposed budget for the 2011-12 school year totals $31.6 million, which is $56,000 more than the 2010-11 budget. However, the proposed budget depends on stable state aid, which last year totaled $3,999,143, according to the budget presentation.

The presentation stated that the district would have to eliminate three teaching positions if the state decided to cut aid by 5 percent, or $199,957. If the state cut the district’s aid by 10 percent, or $399,914, six teaching positions would be eliminated. A 15 percent, or $599,871, cut would result in nine teachers losing their jobs, according to the budget presentation.

The district outlined potential state aid reduction scenarios throughout its budget process last year. At that time, the district tried to plan for state aid cuts of up to 15 percent, only to be hit with a 29.5 percent reduction in aid when the amounts were announced in March 2010.

Under the provisions of the proposed budget, teachers will receive the 4.25 percent raise that the district negotiated in a contract with the union just before last year’s state aid announcement. Health benefit costs are also expected to rise 20 percent, and energy costs will increase approximately 10 percent. Pension payments deferred from prior years are also due next year, according to the budget presentation.

Not all costs are rising. The district will pay the UFRSD $1.1 million less in tuition payments next year. Millstone does not have its own high school and has a send/receive relationship with Allentown High School in the UFRSD.

To further reduce costs, the Millstone school district will also seek “creative use of existing staff to share positions and services,” according to the budget presentation.