BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP — A school district that already laid off 41 employees this year now must cut another 25 positions.

Township Committee voted Tuesday night in favor of a school budget $600,000 smaller than the one voters narrowly rejected April 20.

The budget still raises property taxes 8 cents per $100 of property value, from 92 cents to $1, Township Administrator Dave Breeden said.

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The district had to react swiftly to a $3.1 million reduction in state aid this spring, and the tax increase will replace about $1.5 million of that. The previous 41 job cuts account for about $1 million in savings.

"We had given a dollar amount (to cut) to the school board, and they came very close. I think we're all quite pleased they were able to do that," Mayor Jeff Melchiondo said.

School board member Rafael Adorno Jr. was less enthusiastic, reminding the audience that Melchiondo had said previously the additional budget cuts would not hurt students.

"We are all entitled to our opinions. I felt that they have hurt us, they have hurt us about $350,000 too much," Adorno said.

Deputy Mayor Al Cirulli suggested residents lobby the state Legislature to change the flawed property-tax school funding system: "Otherwise, we will be back here every year."

Several residents chastised the teachers union for not staging a vote on a salary freeze.

"I think it's a disservice they did to our children. I think the board should remember that ... when the contract expires," former school board member Scott Sarno said.

Four of the 25 additional jobs being cut are held by retiring teachers. The other 21 include 12 playground and cafeteria aides, five bus drivers and mechanics, two security guards and two secretaries. A full-time nurse also is being reduced to part-time.

The smaller budget also reduces assistant coaches, athletic supplies and 40 percent of after-school activities at the middle school.

Resident Kim Hochrun, when told the new cuts represent a 2 cent tax rate reduction, told the committee, "I'll give you back my two cents. I don't feel this budget was bad. I feel our teachers in this town do a great job - that's why so many people are trying to move to Barnegat."

Said school board President Lisa Becker, "We hope we don't have to do this ever again."

Dean Allison, the district's business administrator, criticized Gov. Chris Christie for making sudden, dramatic cuts to education aid to accommodate the abolition of a tax on the very wealthy.

"I'm not going to disparage the governor, because I voted for him, but when he ran for office he promised to fund schools fairly, and he has not kept that promise," Allison said.

Contact Eric Scott Campbell:


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