HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — The Board of Education voted Tuesday night in favor of a $48 million school district budget that keeps the amount raised by taxes the same as last year. Measures taken to stay within the budget are up to the discretion of the district superintendent.
The board has proposed eliminating the jobs of the district’s 30 custodians by privatizing the custodial services and bringing in an outside company, GSA Services, which is based in Ohio. Keeping its current custodians would cost the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 a $32 annual increase in school taxes, which equates to $2.75 per month or 9 cents a day, officials said.
Board members explained that the move and other cuts totaling $2 million, including reducing field trips and some school supplies, are necessary to avoid raising the tax rate.
But the more than a dozen people who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting said they would prefer that taxes be increased.
Board member Eric Aiken spoke out against the proposed budget. "You're cutting too deep. I'm not happy with this budget in front of us tonight and we have to retool it,” he said. “You are messing with people’s lives."
Carmen Choseed, a Hamilton Township School District custodian and the Hamilton Township Education Association union representative, said she was notified Friday that their contract is expected to end June 30. The board had just settled a three-year contract Feb 14, she said.
"We feel disrespected,” said Choseed, who has been employed by the district since 1998, as a custodian since 2008. “Why didn't they come to us. We would have taken pay cuts. They basically said, 'You're not worth it, and we're getting rid of you.’"
Patty Fleming, a teacher and the former president of the Hamilton Township Education Association and contact negotiator, said she too was notified Friday. She said she was called to a meeting at noon Friday and showed the newly drafted budget, which was different than the budget proposed in February and included letting go of the 30 custodians. The new plan also proposed a cut to the district’s one-on-one technology program, which allows a laptop for each student, she said, a cut that would save $331,027.
"These are local residents. Many of them have children in the district or even went through the district themselves,” Fleming said of the custodians. “They're hometown people and we love them. This new GCA Services based in Ohio. Who will these people be? Nine cents more a day would save ... jobs."
The administration presented a total budget of $48,061,101, which includes the same tax levy as last year and a tax rate increasing 3.2 cents to 86.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The district must make $2,006,012 in eliminations.
The school tax levy for 2013-14 was $19,696,001 on a ratable base of $2,363,065,213.
The levy for 2014-15 is $19,696,001 on a ratable base of $2,275,007,386, a decrease of $88,057,827.
The district received $59,290 in additional state aid for the 2014-15 budget compared to last year, for a total of $22,755,139 in state aid.
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