2010-04-01 / Schools

Monroe schools to lay off 22 employees for 2010-11

School board makes cuts after state cut aid by $4.4M
BY PATRICIA A. MILLER Staff Writer
At least 22 school district employees are expected to lose their jobs as a result of massive state aid cuts, Board of Education President Amy Antelis said Monday.

“We are not going to whine and cry and bash the governor,” she said. “We are just going to deal with it as best we can.”

The layoffs will affect world language teachers, two vice principals, paraprofessionals, technology support and other teachers, Antelis said.

District officials anticipate a savings of $1,558,221 with the layoffs. Operating costs at the district’s nine schools will also be reduced for a total of $1,397,825, according to the 2010-11 school budget presentation posted on the district’s website.

Monroe took the second-biggest hit in state aid among Middlesex County school districts, losing $4,430,387. The district will receive only $238,696 for the 2010-11 school year.

Antelis is hoping that some of the staff reductions can be absorbed through attrition.

“I became board president two years ago,” said Antelis, now seeking her seventh term as a board member. “One of the first goals I had was to start eliminating some administrative positions. [Schools Superintendent] Dr. [Kenneth] Hamilton was wonderful. He went right along with it. We eliminated $300,000 worth of salaries.”

But now Antelis thinks they may have done “too good” a job, because they are now forced to make cuts but have fewer areas in which to do so.

“We are being punished for doing the right things,” she said.

And the layoff numbers could rise to between 46 and 50 full-time employees if voters defeat the tax levy portion of the $89,743,644 budget on April 20, school officials said.

“The township could cut $1 [million] to $2 million,” Antelis said. “[The Township Council members] have to do what the voters tell them to do, and we have to understand that.”

The tax levy portion of the budget for the 2010-11 school year is $80,584,528. A resident with a home assessed at the township average would pay $3,906 in school taxes per year, an increase of about $300 over the current school year.A

budget defeat might also spell the end of all after-school programs, all non-mandated courses, sports, summer programs, transportation, special services, and early childhood programs, and could possibly delay the opening of the new high school, according to the budget presentation.

Hamilton and School Business Administrator Wayne Holliday have already agreed to salary freezes, Antelis said. School officials are also talking to the various unions about wage freezes.

“The door is open,” Antelis said. “Their contract ends in June 2011. We are talking with all the associations right now. They’ve been great. We’ve all been working together.”

The district will save roughly $3 million in classroom trailer rentals when the new high school opens next year, she said.

“That’s more money we’ll be able to give back to the taxpayers,” Antelis said.

Employees will also begin paying 1.5 percent of their salaries toward the cost of their health care premiums, she said.

The public hearing on the school budget was scheduled for 6 p.m. March 31 at Monroe Township High School.

The school district currently has about 5,600 students and 900 employees, including teaching, administration and support staff.

Monroe voters last year rejected a budget that would have raised school taxes on the average home by $67 annually. The Township Council later cut $601,000 from the budget, which brought the increase to $50 a year.

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