CARTERET – The Borough Council ordered a $1.65 million reduction in the rejected 2009-2010 school budget last week. The council’s plan would save the average taxpayer nearly $200 from the school board’s proposed budget and $115 from what they paid this year, Mayor Daniel Reiman said.
Reiman said the defeated proposed school budget totaled $57,394,624, which called for a general tax levy of $23,840,278. The general fund tax levy will now be set at $22,190,278.
“We have enacted cuts without reducing any instructional positions or programs,” Reiman said. “We not only eliminated the increase, we cut into the budget,” he added. “We actually reduced taxes. This takes into account the economic times facing taxpayers and homeowners.”
The borough council called for a $1.6 million reduction in school spending, with a recommendation of cutting $1.2 million in funding for employee health benefits. The borough recommends that the school board switch from its private employee health benefits plan to the New Jersey State Health Benefits Plan.
Reiman said that the school board spends $14 million annually on health insurance.
“We showed in the numbers that we showed them (the board) that they can save substantial dollars by joining the hundreds of other towns and school boards that are in the New Jersey State Health Benefits Plan,” said Reiman. “Our local employees — the police, the fire, the white collar, the blue collar — are in it. Edison is in it. About 50 percent of school districts are in it.
School Board President Dennis Cherepski said that any switch in the health benefits plan would need to be negotiated with the unions.
The proposed cuts now go back to the school board, which will “have the option of either approving the budget as is, moving the money around or filing an appeal,” said Reiman.
Cherepski couldn’t say if the school board would appeal the cuts until after they met this Wednesday. “I can’t speak for the board,” he said.
The proposed cuts — which also call for a hiring freeze of all noninstructional positions — are a good deal for the residents of Carteret, Reiman said.