PLEASANTVILLE - About 52 school district employees would lose their jobs under an $86.8 million budget introduced by the Board of Education Thursday night, due to a loss of nearly $4 million in state aid, school officials said.
When pressed by employee union leaders, board members and administrators did not say exactly which positions would be cut but that the information will be available at the April 13 meeting.
"This is a difficult situation, this is a difficult feeling," board President Doris Graves said. "There isn't anything we can do about it," and all districts in southern New Jersey are in the same position.
About 72 positions will be eliminated or reduced, but that will be mitigated by the creation of new job titles, Superintendent Gloria Grantham told about 100 staff members and residents in the meeting held in the high school auditorium. Some employees in the eliminated position will have "bumping" rights to go into other jobs. A total of about 52 people can expect to be laid off.
Some of the job cuts can be avoided if the unions are willing to make concessions, such as foregoing a pay increase or showing a willingness to pay a portion of their health benefits, Grantham said.
Titles to be eliminated include supervisors, facilitators, teacher tutors, drop-out prevention official and assistant principal, Grantham said. The district plans to reduce the number of psychologists, custodians, directors, child study team members, social workers and secretaries.
But new titles will be created, including assistant directors, deans, domestic engineers, maintenance specialists, behavior specialists, teaching and learning specialists and coordinators.
Grantham said she plans to meet with union leaders before the April 13 meeting to address their concerns and discuss specifics.
But Mark Delcher, president of the Pleasantville Education Association, told the board that he and his members were given as little information as possible about the budget.
"The budget document that was provided to the public is the most minimal I've ever seen," Delcher said. "It is difficult to ask intelligent questions with so little information."
Delcher suggested the board cut expenses such as courtesy buses, sports and other extra-curricular activities before laying off teachers and aides.
"What I need to do is calm some fears," said Joan Robinson, president of the Pleasantville Administrators Association.
Jean Hovey, a consultant for the New Jersey Education Association said she helped with negotiations for the Hamilton Township schools, and there the board detailed the positions that would be eliminated, if not the exact people.
"You know what they are, or you couldn't vote on the numbers tonight," Hovey said. "The other places are upfront."
Former board member Joanne Famularo, who is running for the board in the April 20 election, also criticized the board by not having the numbers in place by Thursday, the day the budget had to be ratified.
"This is an April Fool's trick, isn't it?" Famularo said to the laughter of the audience.
The unions should make some concessions, Famularo said. The workers are due for a 4.7 percent increase next year, an amount unheard of in other sectors.
"The only ones who take hits in this district are the kids," Famularo said.
In the end, the board passed the budget, with Johnny McClelland and Connie Graham voting against it and Paul Moore abstaining.
The $86,808,271 spending plan is down from $92,526,312 spent in the district last year, Business Administrator Dennis Mulvihill said. The amount to be raised by taxes is $507,360 more than last year, due to a $471,130 loss in state aid for debt service.
How the budget will affect the tax rate cannot be immediately determined, as the city is in the middle of a revaluation, Mulvihill said.
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