VINELAND - City Council cut the school district's budget by $406,751 on Tuesday, leaving school officials to decide exactly where those cuts will be made.

Council members voted 4-0 to effect the cuts when they set the district's total tax levy at $21,619,781.

They recommended that school leaders cut overtime costs by $257,757 after seeing that some employees collected more than $15,000 in overtime annually. Also, they advised cutting $150,000 by not filling three vacant assistant principal positions and using the money to save the jobs of classroom teachers who could be cut.

"We'll take their recommendations under advisement. We have to cut it, but we don't have to go by their recommendations of where to do it," school board President Ron Franceschini said.

Voters narrowly defeated the district's proposed $190 million budget last month, leaving council the task of reviewing it and setting the final tax levy. The budget calls for eliminating the city's adult education program and cutting 82 jobs, although district officials say it's unclear just how many classroom jobs will be eliminated.

Council members cut the budget by the maximum allowed under state law. Councilwoman Mayra Arroyo, who spent seven years on the school board, said she felt the cuts were appropriate.

"I think that this is not going to directly affect students in the classroom," Arroyo said.

Arroyo and Councilman Lou Cresci voted after getting a legal opinion saying they did not have a conflict of interest due to relatives working for the district.

Council President Pete Coccaro abstained because he works in security for the district. The former police officer warned that the additional cuts could affect other aspects, beyond what council members intended.

"This is going to have a trickle-down effect," Coccaro said.

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