WEST CAPE MAY — The school district is proposing a reduced budget this year that collects less money from taxpayers and reduces the tax rate.

But those aren’t the only things that are down. So is enrollment, and that remains the major problem the district faces.

The district’s only school, the kindergarten-through-sixth-grade West Cape May Elementary School, has only 37 students. This is down from 42 last year.

Enrollment has been steadily declining for years, due in part to high real estate values here. The school had 88 students in 2001.

One worry is the smaller class sizes are in the younger grades. The district has already contributed funding to a study looking into merging schools with neighboring Cape May.

Business Administrator Alfred Savio said there are only six kindergartners this year.

“We’re hoping for six more to replace them next year,” Savio said.

While teachers are facing layoffs in other districts due to state budget cuts, Savio said it isn’t a possibility here. There are only five full-time classroom teachers. Savio works just one day a week. Superintendent William Flynn works a day and a half each week.

“There’s no staff to cut. We’re a mean, lean, fighting machine,” said Savio.

That may actually spell survival.

During the administration of former Gov. Jon S. Corzine, there was a push to eliminate or consolidate small districts such as West Cape May. That’s when the study of consolidating with Cape May, and possibly even Cape May Point, began. Savio said Gov. Chris Christie has a different view of it.

“He said, if it’s a mean, lean district then stay. If there’s no savings (in consolidation), there’s no sense in rocking the boat,” Savio said.

The proposed budget for 2010-11 is $1,120,126, compared with $1,126,217 during the current year. The amount to be raised by taxes would be $834,766, compared with $847,561 last year.

The new budget produces a tax rate of 16.2 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation, down slightly from 16.45 cents during the current year.

The tax rate would produce a bill for the owner of a $100,000 home of $162. That same homeowner paid a tax bill this year of $164.50.

The biggest cut in revenue in the budget is state aid, which fell from $185,496 to $129,243.

Voters will decide on the budget April 20. Voters will also choose a member of the Board of Education, but the only candidate running is Board President Irene Hober.

Contact Richard Degener:

609-463-6711