TUCKERTON - The Tuckerton Board of Education recently introduced a $4.4 million budget that calls for the elimination of five jobs, a handful of services and a 3.9 percent increase in the tax levy.

The $4,408,650 spending plan is down $120,942 from the 2009-10 budget but calls for a $92,152 increase in the amount to be raised by taxes.

The tax rate would rise from 53 cents per $100 of assessed value to 55 cents, which means a tax increase of $40 for a home assessed at $200,000.

Superintendent Robert M. Gray Jr. said that as a result of the district's state aid being cut by more than $200,000 and the 4 percent budget cap, the plan also calls for a reduction in jobs and services.

Two special-education teachers, a basic skills teacher, a kindergarten teacher and a part-time office clerk would get laid off if the budget is approved by voters April 20.

"This is the first time since I've been here that we've had to lay someone off. Actually, it's even the first time we haven't hired someone," said Gray, who has been with the district for seven years. "When I had to tell the faculty that we would be letting some people go, it was difficult."

The district will also discontinue courtesy busing, Gray said, and cut its summer school program due to the reduction in state aid. The preschool program will be continued, but its hours will be cut from four to two and a half.

Gray said district students would still be able to take part in the summer program offered through the local Municipal Alliance Council but that the role of academic programs would be "curtailed" and group sizes would greatly increase.

Gray urged voters to approve the budget, warning additional faculty and program cuts could be possible if it is defeated.

"If I could've raised takes to keep these employees working, I would've. But we are already at the 4 percent cap," Gray said. "If it doesn't pass, once it goes to the town it's out of our hands."

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