MILLVILLE - The Millville School District will lay off 43 employees, including 28 teachers, under a spending plan approved Thursday by the Board of Education that calls for no tax increase.

The $96 million budget was approved by a board vote of 8-0 with one abstention, board member Dan Kortvelesey, who earlier called for an amendment to the budget to include a 2-cent tax increase.

Nearly $10.4 million of that total will be raised through the local tax levy and the tax rate, per $100 of assessed property value, will remain flat at 70 cents. The total budget also includes a $4.5 million cut in state aid from last year's budget.

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In addition to the teachers, 15 district support and administration positions will be cut out of the district's just more 900 employees. And these cuts come on top of eight positions cut last year.

Superintendent Shelly Schneider said the budget will result in increased class sizes throughout the district, as well as funding cuts to many programs, including high school sports.

"I am saddened that the voices of low-income students are not heard," she wrote in her budget overview statement. "Our students are the future and they have been sacrificed.

"This year we will surely take steps backward in the area of education."

The cuts in aid are a direct result of Gov. Chris Christie's recent budget announcement reducing aid for districts throughout the state. In all, Millville received about $72.5 million in aid this year.

The $13 million gap between the overall budget and state aid and the local tax levy is made up in grants at the local, state and federal levels, including a $9 million grant for early childhood education.

Despite strong words from Schneider and board members Kortvelesey and Mike Beatty about the future of education in Millville, as well as warnings that things will undoubtedly get worse, there was little in the way of objection.

Despite the loss of 43 jobs, program cutbacks and increased class sizes, not one member of the five-person audience spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.

The poor turnout at Millville Board of Education meetings is nothing new. The board room at the Culver Center on 2nd Street is mostly empty during public meetings, and budget hearings are no exception.

It's a stark contrast to the City Commission's budget hearings, which typically draw a packed crowd and dozens of speakers who object to any presented budget.

The district's tax rate has increased only 4 cents in the past six years. Increase or not, the voters have approved the budget in each of those six years.

Beatty said he wondered whether the district and its board were fooling themselves by buying into the notion that things will get better next year.

"Are we really doing the right thing for our students in what we're willing to give up"" he asked.

Although his public statement painted a bleak image for the district and its schools, Beatty, like all of the other board members except Kortvelesy, voted for the budget.

Contact Edward Van Embden:


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